The final regular season race is in the books for the 2020 Junction City High School cross country teams. The teams both finished seventh in their respective varsity groupings with one medalist finishing inside the top-20 finishers Saturday in Salina.
Coach Ryan Norton said the day was a good and bad day.
“It depends on which side of the coin you look for it on,” he said. “Team standing wise, it probably wasn't the day we were looking for. But on time wise, it was actually a great day for us. Our times are falling into place, so there's hope going into postseason as we look for league and regionals. So, great competition that took us along for the ride and we got our times dropped. We got some good things to look forward to.”
Freshman Tyler Atkins led the boys varsity team with a 16:39.03 finish as he crossed the line fourth overall. His time was 23-seconds off that of the leader but within nine seconds of his personal best time set earlier this season. Atkins missed the last two races due to health concerns, but the off time didn’t seem to affect him much.
“That was a good race for him,” Norton said. “It was comfortable. Some people do fine taking a week off, other people do not. So, Tyler he definitely is one who likes to race. For him to with nine seconds of his PR with him taking a week off (it's a) great time for him and it shows that he's ready to be back.”
The improvement of the young runner over the course of the season gives hope to Norton for a strong showing in both the Centennial League race next week in Topeka and the Regional Meet in Manhattan in two weeks.
“It should definitely get him in the medals,” Norton said. “The goal would be definitely top-5 for Tyler. Top-10 is definitely really realistic, but hopefully our goal is to get into the top-5 with Tyler.”
Junior Hayden Diestelkamp finished next for the Jays in 18:41.51
“Hayden always races well in Salina,” Norton said. “Last year, he set his PR there at 18:33. So, it good to now get him back in range of his PR and, you know, next weeks course is just as flat and we're better off. So he's definitely now in range to mark some more time off.”
Neil Naputo closed out the day in 46th place with a 18:57.23.
Carlos Lozano and Ty Raulston finished 47th and 51st respectively as they hover close to breaking the 19-minute barrier. Lozano finished with a 19:00.24 and Raulston with a 19:13.27.
“Ty Ralston with a 19:13, that was a big PR for him,” Norton said. “And you don't know, he might have just punched his ticket to be on the varsity team here at the end of the season now.”
Isaiah Smith and Aidan Gold closed out the teams performance with a 54th place for Smith in 19:20.63 and a 64th place for Gold in 20:47.49.
Saturdays race was the first in several outings for the Jays where they ran a full team and finished in the team rankings. Norton said it was a great race, with hard competition to figure out the final roster for both the league and regional meets.
“I always like to race seven at the league and the regional meet,” he said. “So, we finally are starting to try to figure out who are those seven people are going to be and given some people time to grow and adjusted to the season. Now it's time to put it all together at the end when it matters.”
The girls varsity team didn’t fair as well on the course as they struggled against a strong Maize South and Shawnee Mission North teams who finished among the top-3 teams. Dodge City snuck in a few runners for valuable points to take second.
“With those two teams in it that really makes a good competition there,” Norton said.
Lorna Rae Pierce led the Lady Jays team with a 25th place finish in 21:21.75. Not her best time of the season, but as Norton explained the long season has taken a slight toll on the freshman who has seen some success throughout.
“We've been nursing some minor aches and pains with Lorna Rae,” Norton said. “So, we’re starting to get those ironed out now down towards the end here. But, she's going to start feeling better and do fine here at the very end of the season.”
Katelyn Atkins finished next for Junction City crossing the line 10-seconds behind Pierce in 26th place. She crossed in 21:31.96.
Ashlynn Shea finished 39th in 22:54.46 with Amyah O’Neal trailing her in 44th place in 23:22.08.
Murin Burkett closed out the team with a 45th place finish in 23:25.17.
The relative youth of the team — three freshmen, one junior and one senior — gives Norton hope for the future of the Lady Jays cross country program and the early successes seen this season will continue throughout their tenure at JCHS.
“It does help us to get that growth early and they have been getting a lot of success early,” he said. “That's been the key, you know we've put a lot of these people in varsity early on in the season just because we wanted them racing the 5K at the varsity races versus the shorter JV. So, just to see the progressions with them cutting down their times across the season. It's really good to look at and I think they were starting to really gel as a team and come together and really sort of have fun with one another to on this journey.”
Now the teams will prepare for the flat course of Kanza Park in Topeka hosted by Washburn Rural. The Centennial League meet will be tough match for the Jays Norton said, but that will make the regional meet on Oct. 24th look easier as they face other teams who are building their programs this year.
Norton said coaches polls have Junction City finishing in the top-3 in both the boys and girls varsity regional competition in Manhattan against Hutchinson, Manhattan, Topeka, Washburn Rural, Wichita Heights, Wichita North and Wichita Northwest. But first the team will concentrate on the Centennial League meet this Saturday.
Team Results: 1. Maize South, 25; 2. Dodge City, 74; 3. Shawnee Mission North, 78; 4. Hays, 91; 5. Salina South, 123; 6. Eisenhower, 136; 7. Junction City, 179; 8. Trinity Academy, 229.
Individual Results: 1. Alexa Rios, MS, 18:47.09; 2. Britton Kelly, MS, 19:30.9; 3. Bowi Sargent, MS, 19:33.76; 4. Josie Tyrrell, SMN, 19:38.24; 5. Serenity Larson, DC, 19:53.15; 6. Jadyn Pavlik, EIS, 20:09.33; 7. Sage Pauly, MS, 20:13.22; 8. Grace Allen, SS, 20:15.44; 9. Brenna Murphy, SMN, 20:16.92; 10. Norma Rodriguez, DC, 20:19.17. JC Finishers: 25. Lorna Rae Pierce, 21:21.75; 26. Katelyn Atkins, 21:31.96; 39. Ashlynn Shea, 22:54.46; 44. Amyah O’Neal, 23:22.08; 45. Murin Burkett, 23:25.17.
Team Results: 1. Maize South, 58; 2. Shawnee Mission North, 80; 3. Eisenhower, 85; 4. Dodge City, 88; 5. Trinity Academy, 115; 6. Clay Center Community High School, 162; 7. Salina Central, 186; 8. Junction City, 187; 9. Hays, 236; 10. Salina South, 245
Individual Results: 1. Trevor Maxville, SMN, 16:16.04; 2. Vaughn Decker, MS, 16:27.93; 3. Austin Schaeffer, MS, 16:29.19; 4. Tyler Atkins, JC, 16:39.03; 5. William Griffith, SC, 16:53.22; 6. Elijah Clark, MS, 16:53.36; 7. Angel Landeros, DC, 17:03.33; 8. Jacob Fawson, EIS, 17:05.21; 9. Martin Marquez, DC, 17:05.49; 10. Grant Smith, CC, 17:14.03. JC Finishers: 39. Hayden Diestelkamp, 18:41.51; 46. Neil Naputo, 18:57.23; 47. Carlos Lozano, 19:00.24; 51. Ty Raulston, 19:13.27; 54. Isaiah Smith, 19:20.63; 64. Aidan Gold, 20:47.49.