AUGUSTA — Manhattan High cross country coach Susan Melgares waded through the mass of humanity gathered next to the finish line at the Class 6A state cross country meet at 4 Mile Creek Resort in Augusta Saturday afternoon.
Melgares found the pink uniforms of seniors Ben Mosier and Max Bowyer and happy tears began to fall. The Indians had just finished second as a team for the second straight year.
“It was just pride in what they’ve done and the resiliency and determination they’ve shown,” said Melgares, detailing the emotions behind her tears. “They’ve been through a lot of ups and downs and challenges. They’ve been beaten by some teams and then they came back on the day when you want them to put it together and they did it. They rose above the challenges and they put it together.”
The Manhattan boys went into the season knowing that the task ahead of them was steep. They had lost 2020 individual state champ Daniel Harkin to graduation, and few expected to see the Indians make another push at a podium finish.
“It’s like a big weight off your chest because we’ve been looking forward to this all week,” Mosier said. “All season.”
“The past six years we’ve waited for this,” Bowyer responded. “Ben and I have been running together since seventh grade … We knew that this was probably our last race ever together. We’re most likely going to different colleges and we may not run after high school. We knew we wanted to do something special this year and help the underclassmen to a podium finish again, so they can see what it’s like and set the reins for next year and show people what this team is about. It’s not about winning. Winning is the fun part, but it’s about working together as a team and accomplishing something that we can always remember.”
Manhattan had finished second at regionals the previous Saturday behind Lawrence Free State, which took fourth at state. It’s not to say that the Indians weren’t trying their hardest during the regional meet, but Saturday saw them unleashing all of their capabilities, something that played into their advantage.
“We didn’t place a huge emphasis on regionals,” Melgares said. “We’re fortunate in that we don’t need a big push at regionals to make the state meet. You don’t really remember who got what place at regionals; you just have to get through and compete. The focus is to get the best effort at the state meet.”
Mosier led the way, finishing ninth overall with a time of 16:05.7.
Bowyer came in less than 10 seconds later, finishing 14th with a time of 16:14.7.
“Our goal was to go out with the front pack and then draft off them and stick on them and just hold our position,” Mosier said. “And then, in the last K (kilometer) or so, we really wanted to kick it and move up a couple spots.”
Freshman Landon Knopp placed 26th with a time of 16:40.1, and sophomore Ethan Bryant fought his way forward, finishing 40th with a time of 16:57.4. Both Knopp and Bryant were key in setting the table for the Manhattan silver finish.
“Everybody got out,” Melgares said. “That’s been something we’ve been aiming for. You get out, you get in the game and then you play the game. Ben and Max did well, and then Landon and Ethan were passing people. Ethan passed several people at the end there. We knew Free State was going to be in the mix and we knew Shawnee Mission North was going to be in the mix, and we saw those teams and those runners ahead of them and they were just really fierce in catching them and then going around them.”
Junior Kolby Grogg finished 49th with a time of 17:08.1, followed by junior Silas Mills, who took 60th (17:23.4), and senior Parker Dawdy, who placed 74th (17:33.1).
“If you look at straight-up competition and what you’d envision for your perfect plan of training and putting together the race on the day, they put together the race on the day,” Melgares said. “It’s less than ideal with the challenges they’ve had to face but from a straight competition standpoint, I think these kids were determined. Those seniors have had this in their mind throughout the season that they were going to bring it at the state meet. And then, doggone, they got ‘er done.”
Olathe South took first as a team with 70 points, while Shawnee Mission North’s Micah Blomker finished first individually (15:25.3).
Meanwhile, the Manhattan girls wrapped up a season that started with hopes of a podium placing and ended with the Indians finishing fifth.
Manhattan ran without junior Amelia Knopp, who was injured before the Centennial League meet, and senior Jenna Keeley, who has been out all season because of an injury sustained during the last track season. The Indians hoped they would have Keeley back in time for regionals and state, but it didn’t work out. Don’t call this season a disappointment though. The loss of some of Manhattan’s more veteran runners this season made way for a crop of talented freshmen and sophomores, who have laid the foundation for future success for the Indians.
“It’s very exciting, and it makes us hopeful for the future,” Melgares said. “I’m just super proud of the way they came in. Our upperclassmen took good care of them and set a good example for them to continue this next year.”
Freshman Rebekah Pickering has led the way as Manhattan’s top runner this season, and capped her first high school cross country season with a 16th-place finish at state with a time of 19:25.5.
Sophomore Haley Henningson placed 25th (19:47.6), senior Rachel Corn finished 40th (20:16.5), senior Morgan Turner placed 54th (20:37.2), freshman Malea Jobity finished 57th (20:42.5), freshman Jalissa Jobity (21:22.8) and freshman Amelia Anderson (21:25.7).
“They all gave everything they had,” Melgares said.
“Their hearts were in it. They ran extremely tough. As a coach, boy, you can’t ask for much more than that. (Washburn Rural) gave us a tussle, but we’ll be back next year.”
Olathe West finished first as a team and Olathe North’s Anjali Hocker-Singh finished first as an individual with a time of 17:45.6.
Other area results at state meets
The Wamego boys finished second at the 4A state meet on their home course at Wamego Country Club.
The Red Raiders finished with 67 points, 16 behind first place Buhler (51).
Noah Morenz led the way, finishing seventh with a time of 16:53.4, followed by Emery Wolfe, who placed 10th (16:59.6).
Harrison Cutting placed 14th (17:14), Brady Stegman placed 20th (17:27.4), Hayes Rickstrew finished 39th (18:17.5), Alec Hupe placed 43rd (18:20.6) and Jonathan Cutting placed 89th (20:19.4).
The Wamego girls placed sixth as a team, led by medalist Charlene Lind who finished 18th with a time of 21:07.4.
Sariah Pittenger-Reed placed 25th with a time of 21:25.1, followed by Emilia Wilkerson (31st, 21:39), Taylor Umscheid (52nd, 22:34.4), Adaline Fulmer (78th, 23:46.7), Isabella Wilber (97th, 25:35.4), Margaret Benson (98th, 27:00).
Rock Creek’s two individual runners also ran in the 4A race, led by Kyra Nippert, who took fifth overall with a time of 20:23.6. David Wilkinson finished 69th in the boys’ race (19:08.7).
In the 3A race, also in Wamego, Riley County senior Hailey Sharp placed 12th overall with a time of 20:59.
In the 2A race held at Sand Plum Nature Trail in Victoria, the Wabaunsee girls finished sixth as a team, led by Payton Wurtz, who finished second overall with a time of 19:27.9.
Rebekah Stuhlsatz finished 15th (20:34), Anna Sophia Castillo finished 54th (22:44.6), Jenna Donaldson finished 61st (23:12.1), Kyndal Maike placed 78th (24:13.5), Isabelle Stuhlsatz (24:33.4) and Cecelia Emmert finished 91st (25:20.8).