After both teams finished 10th at state cross country last season, the Manhattan High boys’ and girls’ teams set out to improve this year.
With a pair of sixth-place team finishes, they accomplished their goal on Saturday at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence.
“The guys averaged 16:50, which is the fastest we have done at Rim Rock in my time here, and we had several kids at or under their PRs,” MHS coach Susan Melgares said. “We felt like the guys and girls really showed fire, they came out strong and were still going strong up the hill at the end.”
Alaina Schroeder was the top Indian runner, taking third overall in the 6A girls’ race. Her time of 15:10.8 was just .6 seconds behind second-place Alex Miller of Garden City. Alli Cash won the race handily in a time of 14:02.8. Olathe East was the team winner for the girls’ race, with a team score of 89. Manhattan’s had 128 team points.
“She got out, as she always does, started strong and is another one that really ran tough throughout the whole race,” she said. “One gal caught her right at the end. Finishing at the top of 6A — that’s the toughest of the tough — so that’s saying something.”
On the boys’ side, Chris Melgares led the way taking 10th place in a time of 16:13.1, which was 51 seconds behind the winning time. Shawnee Mission Northwest was the runaway winner in the boys’ race with a 43. Second-place Wichita North, which beat Manhattan at regionals, was second with a 92. Manhattan had 136.
Michael Melgares (16:40.3) was the No. 2 finisher for the Tribe in 29th place, with Isaiah Koppes (16:53.7) right behind in 35th. James Leblow (17:02.2) came in 41st, Isaac Blankenau (17:24.1) in 64th, Cale Benne (17:30.3) in 72nd and Nick Bandy (17:48.3) in 90th to round out the scoring.
For the girls’ team, Christina Wankum (15:16.5) finished in eighth place to complete a solid freshman season.
Emily Van Natta (16:09.3) finished in 35th, Megan Ochoa (16:26.5) in 48th, Toula Sweeney (16:40.0) in 65th, Lauren Wankum (16:53.2) in 75th and Emilie Leibe (17:14.2) in 90th.
In the end, the Indians didn’t come up with a state title they were focused on since last season, but their marked improvement sets the bar higher as they climb the ladder and develop the program.
“We can’t control the competition, but we felt like the kids really put their heart into it and competed well,” Melgares said. “It’s great to be going up in the placings. The kids had some real high expectations.”