Beginning at noon today, cross country teams from throughout the state will travel to Kearney's Country Club to contest their running skills in the Nebraska State Cross Country Meet. Class D will begin the competition, as the girls begin at noon followed by Class B a half hour later. The boys Class D run will take off at 1 p.m. with the Class B boys starting at 1:30 p.m.
At 2 p.m., the girls Class C competition begins, and the Class A girls will follow at 2:30 p.m. The final two races will see the Class C boys starting at 3 p.m. and Class A at 3:30 p.m.
North Platte High School will have three individuals participating today. Junior Libby Burrows, returns for the second consecutive year, after finishing 41st in 2011.
“Libby has been there before,” said North Platte coach Dennis Fornander. “She has struggled with injury, but has been getting stronger and stronger each week.
“She has run on the course before, so experience in state and also on the course should help”
On the boys' side, junior Wyatt McGuire is making his third appearance at state, taking home two previous 12th-place medals. Senior Ace Haws, after finishing 11th at districts, will be making his first trip to state.
“We do believe that Wyatt is in position for his best performance,” Fornander said. “He will be rested for the first time all season. He knows the course and he knows what to expect from his competition.
“The clear favorite would be Joe Harter from Millard West, but there are actually four runners who have shown they will compete for the top spots.
“Harter from Millard West, Wyatt, Danny Aldaba from Fremont, and Mohamad Hamdan of Lincoln North Star would seem to be the favorites. Harter won the UNK invite by 12 seconds over Wyatt the only time they have all been in the same race. But you can never count out someone coming out of the blue and having a great race.”
Fornander feels it is important for McGuire to be ready at any time during the race.
“Just to compete and adjust as the race develops,' the coach said. It will be important to maintain contact throughout the race.”
Haws will be making his first appearance at state, but not on the Kearney course.
“Ace missed most of the summer training with an injury,” Fornander said. So it has been amazing how he has progressed and achieved the success he has this year. Ace has competed extremely well.
“All three of them have run the Country Club course several times in the UNK and/or state meets, so they all know what to expect.”
Lexington will represent the Telegraph area, with both their boys and girls teams qualifying for state.
“We were excited to qualify both teams again this year,” Lexington coach Sam Jilka said. “Our boys have a lot of younger kids that we had to rely on due to the loss of former members [moving, graduation] — so I was pleased how they were able to step up.
“The boys have packed well this year but need to move that pack up to a faster pace. Finally in the last couple weeks we've had some boys step up and challenge their comfort zone.
“The boys race at state will be dominated by Scottsbluff and Mt. Michael — two very quality teams — though everyone has to run the race and we always train to expect the unexpected. We have to continue to pack well and need our four to stay in close proximity.
“Francisco Rodriguez and John Mark Shields have been very assertive in their races and we will aim for that to continue. We ran ineffective at UNK and want to prove that despite being inexperienced our group can be one of the top five at state.”
The Minutemaids finished 3rd as a team in 2011 and also claimed the individual gold medalist. Odaliz Santoyo-Garcia finished first, and teammate Vanessa Ambriz came across the line in 3rd.
“The girls were excited to repeat as 'District Champions' and have set high goals during the year,” Jilka said. “I think we had to refocus a few times as some of our goals were not being met due to some taking on undue pressure and being less effective.
“Unfortunately we were unable to get some younger girls to step up. Our experienced girls are performing well, but our 3-4-5 runners need to be stronger and pack more effectively.
“Vanessa is running well — she is very determined and finishing her career in great fashion. I'm always amazed at how aggressive she can be — we are working on her finishes, but she has been impressive.
Molly Sughroue, [of McCook] has had an outstanding season. She is always tough and you can tell she put in the summer miles — tough competitor.
“Odaliz had one her best races of the season at districts, as she has had the opportunity to learn how the mind can be an asset or detriment. Often she puts too much on her shoulders and pressures herself. Finally she allowed herself simply to run and enjoy it.
“The individual race at state will be fun to watch. There are about 7-8 girls that are very tough runners and will be determined to prove their abilities. We will look forward to seeing a couple Lex girls in the mix.”
Sughroue was 5th a year ago for the Lady Bison, and looks to climb the ladder after a successful spring during the State Track Meet. Sughroue took home golds in both the 400 and 800-meter events.
Cozad looks to take a strong contingent to Kearney, with their sites set on gathering hardware in both the girls and boys competition.
“Our goal from the start of the season was not only to qualify both teams, but have teams that could be in contention for team honors at the state meet as well,” said Cozad coach Dustin Favinger. “It has been an honor to work with this group and see them put in the hard work day after day for a long term goal.
“We felt like our girls were the team to beat in our district and they just went out and took care of business. On the boys side, we knew that Ogallala would run well on their home course and have a little fire in them after beating them at conference. We feel as if our boys still have their best race ahead of them and are looking forward to Friday.”
The Lady Haymakers have five girls returning from a 4th place finish at state a year ago. Favinger will have a veteran group trying to improve on last years finish.
“It has been great having this group of upper class men,” said Favinger. “These girls are very talented, but also very humble and have taken all their success in stride.
“The greatest thing we have going for us is that we pack so well and no one girl is carrying the load of the team. These girls have been to Kearney and run well there earlier in the year, and the fact that our top five girls have all run at state before will definitely be to our advantage not having to battle nerves.”
This is the first time in 36 years the Haymaker boys' team has qualified, and the first time in school history both teams have qualified at the same time.
“Our goal has never been about just qualifying,” Favinger said. “A year ago this group of boys set the goal of being one of the best teams in the state and worked hard over the summer and fall to make it happen.
“Just as with the girls, we believe we are one of the teams in the hunt for the team honors and we really just need to go out and execute the race plan we have. Our boys are also very good about focusing in when it comes time to perform and we have no doubts that their great performances at the UNK Invite will give us some confidence on the course.”
Ogallala's boys, coming off a 1st place finish in districts and a 3rd at state in 2011, look to be in position to improve on their results of a year ago.
“I see seven different teams with a chance to take state,” said Ogallala coach Shane Fruit. “It is a very wide open field. Fort Calhoun seems to be the favorite in my eyes, but I think we have a chance.”
James McKeag returns to state after finishing 3rd in 2011 along with teammate Dereck Rosas who was 6th. McKeag and Rosas return as the top returning qualifiers.
“A 1-2 finish would be awesome,” Fruit said. “But I really preach about doing your best and not worrying about place so much.
“If they get done and feel like they did their best then it was successful. I always tell the kids that if they do their best, that is the best way to honor God, and don't get caught up in the placing. It takes a lot of pressure off them to run to their best abilities.”
The Indians strategy is pretty simple.
“You can't let the race get away from you,” the coach said. “But you must be controlled enough that you don't use up all your energy in the first mile.”
Carrying the lone flag for the Lady Indians at state is sophomore Kelsey Crymble. Crymble returns to state after a 9th-place finish in 2011.
“Kelsey has been consistently faster at most of her races, so again we just hope that when it is finished she did her best and let the chips fall where they may,” Fruit said. “Our district is a very talented one, so she has already run with the best in the state, so she knows what to expect. It makes it a little bit easier going in when you know that you have already competed with the best.”
St. Pat's qualified both squads for this years state meet. It will be a repeat performance for a veteran girls team, but for the boys it will be their initial appearance.
St. Pat's coach Marie Brosius couldn't be happier with both squads extending their season.
“It's just awesome,” Brosius said. “It's not a very old program [just six or seven years]. I'm very excited, especially for the boys in their first year.”
Anna O'Malley and cousin Mandy are looking to improve on their individual and team placing of 2011. Anna was 12th and Mandy finished 13th as they paced the Lady Irish to a 3rd-place team finish. Senior teammate Maggie Vinton, although not medaling a year ago, did medal 12th in 2010.
“I just want them to try their best,” Brosius said. “For the seniors, Mandy, Maggie and Jodecci [Torrez], it will be their final time and I just want them to do the best they can — let it all out — and be proud they are Irish.”
With only Joseph O'Malley returning as a state competitor for the boys, Brosius said her wishes for the boys' team, is to get the experience of competing in a state event.
“I've noticed from past experience, boys usually don't develop into good runners until their junior or senior years,” the coach said. “So I really want them to gain that experience.”
Joseph O'Malley finished 44th a year ago and has been a big help with the boys team for Brosius.
“Joe really is a good leader,” said Brosius. “He knows how to encourage his teammates. Joe gets into the technical part of running — so I let him take care of that.”
The Paxton boys return to state after claiming a 3rd place in 2011.
“We are ever hopeful that we will be in the hunt for a trophy,” said Paxton coach Dale Schroeder. “We know that there are some great teams that we will face and they are all trying to accomplish the same thing. This years field is a tough one and we hope we are up to the challenge.”
Senior Garrett Perlinger gives the Tigers experience, as he brought home a 9th- place medal as a junior and was 10th his sophomore year.
“Garrett has a great opportunity to bring home another medal this year,” Schroeder said. “He has been a little nicked up this season, but he appears to be as healthy now as he was at the beginning of the season where he ran some great times. Assuming that he is healthy, look for him to be in the hunt this year for another medal.”
Coach Schroeder said the team has talked about strategies for the meet.
“We have discussed our 2, 3, 4 and 5 runners packing up,” the coach said. “Our 6 runner, we have set a time for to try to get him to continue to work hard.
“We have some ideas of where we want No.1 Garrett to be, to give him the best opportunity to place high.”
Area boys participants —
Class A: North Platte – Wyatt McGuire, Ace Haws.
Class B: Lexington – Francisco Rodriguez-Morales, John Mark Shields, Josue Avalos, Bryan Zepeda-Larrave, Chandler Flynn, Daniel Nguyen.
Class C: Ogallala – Dereck Rosas, James McKeag, Dalton Simmerman, Alexander Ewert, Cole Samuelson, Austin Hillis; Cozad: Andrew Pelayo, Jesus Estrada, Garrit Geiger, Dillon Budd, Jacob Hoffman, Emmanuel Hermosillo; Valentine – Jalen Grant; Broken Bow – Evan Rose, Andrew Pracht.
Class D: Anselmo-Merna – Adam Christen; Paxton – Garrett Perlinger, Tyler Cassell, Jaron Bricker, Connor Merrill, Dakota Jay, Joel Schroeder; St. Pat's – Joseph O'Malley, Brandon Adkins, Jared Brosius, Brandon Adkins, Jared Brosius, Jared Gafke, Tyler Elsten, Joshua Hernandez; Eustis-Farnam/Medicine Valley – Rodger Farr, Connor Russell; Maywood – Quinton Phillips; Cambridge – Kiel Howell.
Area girls participants —
Class A: North Platte – Libby Burrows.
Class B: Lexington – Vanessa Ambriz, Odaliz Santoyo-Garcia, Daisy Lopez, Ana Hernandez-Cruz, Erika Martinez-Perez, Katherinne Galvan-Rodriguez; McCook – Molly Sughroue, Veronica Bair.
Class C: Cozad – Riley Sigler, Samantha Carlson, Sandra Pelayo, Elizabeth Vazquez, Janice Garcia, Jamie Garcia; Ogallala – Kelsey Crymble; Broken Bow – Shannon Myers; Chase County – Alysaa Moreno.
Class D: Anna O'Malley, Mandy O'Malley, Margaret Vinton, Jodecci Torrez, Alexandria Allison, Jamie Smith; Perkins County – Emily Kemling, Courtney Lyon, Mariah Curtis, Kendra Hoffert, Jessica Hoffert; Maywood – Justine Stone; Sutherland – Joslyn Burke.