Boys and girls cross country named runner-ups in Kansas State Championships

Five from each team placed in the top 25

Tricia Drumm, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

Both boys and girls cross country were runner-ups in their respective state championship races at Rim Rock Farm on Saturday, Oct. 28. The girls scored 45 points, falling five points behind St. James Academy, and the boys had 72 points, falling 11 points behind St. Thomas Aquinas.  

This is the second year in a row the boys have been runner-up, while this is the highest placing the girls have had in school history.

The five girls who placed in the top 25 were junior Delaney Kemp in fifth, sophomore Morgan Koca in eighth, freshman Molly Ricker in 10th, freshman Josie Taylor in 13th and senior Britton Nelson in 14th. For the boys, junior Greg Haynes took 10th, sophomore Jack Terry in 15th, sophomore Darius Hightower in 20th and seniors Justin Grega and Mitchell Dervin in 21st and 23rd respectively.

In his last race of his high school career, Grega broke his personal record, running 16:42.

“For my last race, I went there knowing it was my last race, and I didn’t let it get into my head too much,” Grega said. “I didn’t want to get too emotional before it and that it all go wrong. There was the mission to put everything that I had out there and do my best, and I did exactly that.”

During this meet, Kemp said the girls’ strategy was to “[stick their] noses in the front of race” and hang onto the leaders.

“[The front of the race is] where St. James runs, and we really wanted to give ourselves the biggest opportunity to beat them,” Kemp said. “Or to get as close to beating them as we could, and that meant staying in the front group, where in weeks past we’ve just hung behind them or we didn’t put our noses in there. But yesterday we definitely gave them a run for their money.”

Both Grega and Kemp found the Rim Rock course to be challenging: its “killer” hills for Kemp and the brutal cold and wind for Grega.

“It was low 40s, so we have not ran in that temperatures at all this year,” Grega said. “So, it’s a new new challenge, but we got through it, and once we started racing it didn’t really bother us. We’re just so in the zone and motivated during the race that we kind of forgot about the cold and got through it.”

Kemp felt the team benefitted from the rigorous training.

“McAfee puts us in race situations all the time in practice, and putting ourselves in a position to hurt in practice will hurt in a race was definitely a strength,” Kemp said. “We would step on a course and know exactly how it would feel. We knew it wasn’t going to be the best time of our life, but it was what we enjoyed doing.”

This year, the boys’ motto was ‘brotherhood,’ “the sense of being together and being all brothers,” and Grega felt that showed throughout the season and at the state competition.  

“We never gave up. We kept pushing no matter what,” Grega said. “We all knew it was going to be our last race of the season, and we just kept pushing, running our hardest.”

Compared to the previous season, Kemp said the mentality of expecting a trophy helped with the season’s success.

“Part of the way teams that always win state championships, you see them winning year after year after year because they expect greatness,” Kemp said. “Well, McAfee has always taught us to expect being good. He’s like ‘It’s OK to know you’re good. It’s OK to go out and run like that.’ So, I think winning or getting close to placing high up in some of our hard meets this year gave us confidence going into postseason … We had to run like champions if we wanted to be champions.”

Grega said he had a “really fun season” and that he’ll “definitely miss [cross country] in the future.”

“A lot of memories were made, and I really enjoyed everybody on the team and the coaches,” Grega said. “This is probably one of my favorite moments, favorite times in high school is being on the cross country team.”

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