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Junction City runners pose with Suzan Schmokel (front row, middle), wife of late 30-plus year Junction City Cross Country Coach Bob Schmoekel, who was working the Rim Rock Classic in Lawrence on Saturday.

On an absolutely gorgeous morning, the Junction City High School cross country team raced at the historic Rim Rock Classic.

Used as the University of Kansas home cross country course, Rim Rock Farm is one of the most scenic, well known, and challenging courses in the state and region. Rim Rock has hosted multiple Kansas High School State Championships, NAIA National Championships, and multiple Big 12 Championship meets. A course of this caliber brings out the best in many athletes. For the Blue Jays, that meant 5 Top 25 finisher medals, and eight new Personal Records.

The Blue Jay JV Boys raced first. All 5 of the Blue Jays competing ran lifetime personal records and they placed fifth out of 24 schools represented in the race.

Sophomore Johnny Rushing led the way for the Blue Jays with a 21st place finish with a time of 19:08.9 for the 5,000 meter distance. Senior Javohn Jackson raced his way to 24th place, running the course in a time of 19:20.08. Both Rushing and Jackson earned medals for placing the in the top 25 individuals in the race of 182 runners. Rounding out the team scoring for the JV boys were Adrian Duarte (19:33.0), Evan Hall (19:35.2) and Michael Bockman (20:14.6).

“That 8:55am race for the JV boys was possibly the highlight of the day,” assistant coach Ryan Norton said. “Those guys raced to their current fitness levels and showed some real toughness late in the race. All of the boys were working their way through the pack and passing people consistently. It was a blast watching them go.”

The next race of the day was the Boys Varsity Gold Division Race. Only one JCHS runner was entered into the race.

Senior Tyler Atkins has established himself as one of the better runners in the state of Kansas and the coaching staff asked for him to be allowed into the race as an individual.

Tyler did not disappoint.

Atkins followed a steady race plan of chasing the top guys in the race which included some members of the number three high school cross country team in the nation, Valor Christian of Colorado. By executing the race plan, Atkins broke the JCHS course record on Rim Rock and broke the illustrious 16 minute barrier for the first time in his cross country career. His time of 15:58.6 broke the previous record by over ten seconds. He placed 15th overall and was the 8th Kansan across the finish line.

“Tyler has been training really well,” head coach Tim Testa said. “We expected this from him. He has the ability to go considerably faster on courses that are not as challenging. Looking forward to getting him back to training and watch him race the rest of the season.”

In the next race, the Girls Varsity Crimson Division race, the Blue Jays had seven runners with only one that had ever been to Rim Rock Farms before in senior Murin Burkett.

Lack of experience has been a common theme for the varsity girls this year. The team is made up of one senior, five sophomores, and one freshman.

On Saturday, they raced above their experience levels. Led by sophomore medalists Brynna York and Lorna Rae Pierce, the Blue Jay girls finished eighth place of the 21 teams competing. York finished the race in 11th place, while Pierce earned her medal for her 18th place finish. Next across the line were sophomores Reagan McGuire and Katey Atkins who ran to 33rd and 89th place finishes respectively.

The lone girl with a personal record in the race was freshman Kourtney Dibben who nearly dipped under 23 minutes while running 23:00.9 for the 5k race. Rounding out the girls results were senior Murin Burkett (113th place) and sophomore Amyah O’Neal (128th place).

“As these girls gain more experience and fitness, we hope to see significant jumps in their results,” assistant coach Many Zimmerman said. “They have high goals for the end of the season and we are excited for them to chase them.”

The final race of the day was the Varsity Boys Crimson 5k.

JCHS ran five runners led by junior Isaiah Smith who ran 17:31.3 for a 37th place finish.

Sophomore Ty Raulston ran a big personal best time of 18:17.2, bettering his previous record of 18:43. Rounding out the boys scoring were Alex Curto (18:33.4), Neil Crowley (19:21.7), and Hayden Diestelkamp (19:30.3). Since the boys team was split with Tyler Atkins running in another division, the team results were skewed with the boys placing 23rd of the 30 team represented.

“I thought that Ty and Isaiah ran well in their race,” Testa said. “The rest of the guys looked tired. Some of that may be due to the overtime football game the night before, or just the effects of training. We will go back to work next week and see if they can bounce back. We trust these guys to be ready when it’s championship season.”

The Blue Jays will bring the team back together at their home invitational Oct 2nd. The Bob Schmoekel cross country is located at Milford State Park and races will begin at 10:00am.

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