Two Manhattan High standout distance runners made their college choices official this morning, with Alaina Schroeder and Chris Melgares both inking national letters of intent with the University of Kansas to continue their cross country careers.
The ceremony was a make-up after heavy snow canceled school on last Wednesday’s national signing day. Six other Manhattan athletes signed later in the day.
For Melgares and Schroeder, two of the top runners in Manhattan High history, both of which hold school records for cross country races, will be making the transition to college at the same institution.
In each of her final three cross country seasons, Schroeder was named to the all-Centennial League, all-regional and all-state teams while finishing second individually at the state meet as a sophomore, and third in her final two seasons. She also won three consecutive individual Centennial League championships.
In track, Schroeder has won six individual league titles, and has made the all-league team every year since 2011. She placed top three at the state meet in the 1,600-meter race for three years, with two top-three finishes in the 3,200-meter race.
Schroeder said her visit to Lawrence put the Jayhawks over the top.
“I went and it just felt right,” Schroeder said. “They have great facilities, the coaching staff looks amazing, and everyone I met on the team was awesome. It’s close to home, but it’s not home, so that was definitely a big factor, too. And I’ve always really liked Lawrence, the town.”
Schroeder also considered Kansas State, but KU was the front runner all along among in-state options.
“I wanted to go out of state, but we figured out that wasn’t an option, so if I was going to stay in state, it was going to be KU,” she said. “I did look at K-State, and they have a great program, great coaches, and I met some of the girls on the team, and they’re awesome. But KU was just a better fit.”
Melgares, who led the boys’ cross country team to an undefeated season and a lopsided win at the state meet in the fall, has had a decorated individual career as well.
The senior has won two individual Centennial League titles, while leading the team as a captain in his final two years. He took second this year at the state meet, while taking 10th as a junior and 25th as a sophomore.
In track, he took fifth in both the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter races at the state meet last spring.
When Melgares arrives in Lawrence, he’ll see at least one familiar face in former Indian Reid Buchanan, who is entering his senior season for the Jayhawks after a breakout year that included a trip to the NCAA championships.
“That definitely played a big factor - I’ll already know someone on the team,” Melgares said. “Reid was really helpful on my visit, so I’m excited to go run with him, for sure.
“I really liked hanging out with the team, and I connected well with the coach. After looking at all the schools, I felt that was the best place for me to go.”
Melgares said he also considered Nebraska, Wichita State and K-State.
“Out of that, my heart felt like KU was the best place,” he said. “So I made the decision.”
Manhattan head cross country coach Susan Melgares said she’s proud of both athletes’ evolution as leaders.
“I’m proud of how hard they’ve worked, how tough they’ve competed, but even more, the leaders they’ve been,” she said. “Not only to excel themselves, but to bring their teammates along with them and to contribute to the success of the whole running tribe.”
Though she’ll be able to attend some of KU’s races, Susan said sending one of her sons away to college is going to be tough.
“It’s always hard to send my athletes away,” she said. “That’s always a challenge for me, and I didn’t know that would be the hardest part of coaching, to see them move on. But it’s also an exciting part of coaching, to see them move on.
“But yeah, this year it’s going to be a little bit of an extra challenge.”
Six sign in late session
In the late-morning session, two football players and four girls’ soccer players celebrated their college decisions.
Winston Dimel (Kansas State) and Darian Taylor (Pittsburg State) each signed to play football, while Ally Taylor (Emporia State), Emma Samenus (Butler County CC), Lani Fischer (Hastings (Neb.) College) and Aleise Williams (Hutchinson CC) all signed to play college soccer.
More information will be available in Tuesday’s Mercury.