Chieftain runners take seventh at state meet
The Tonganoxie boys cross country team built on the experience of a state appearance a year ago to improve at this year’s Class 4A State Cross Country meet Saturday in Wamego.
The team finished in seventh place out of 12 teams at the meet, and senior runner Patrick Rachford said the experience of being in the state meet for the second consecutive year was an advantage to the team during the race.
“State is a scary place,” Rachford said. “You see all these runners out there, all these competitors, you don’t know what to think, so you’re scared and that was our position last year. But this year we had the maturity, we had the level necessary to compete at state and so I think all our nerves were more calm. So we were able to run and just worry about our race instead of worrying what state was.”
With excellent distance race conditions to compete in during the meet, coach Phil Williams said he was pleased with his team’s performance and thought it finished where expected.
“I thought they went in, they attacked the race much better and ran very well today. I was very much pleased,” Williams said. “We had hoped maybe for a top-five finish. I’m not sure there’s much we could have done to get in the top five.”
Tonganoxie, which had a team score of 177, was just two points behind sixth-place finisher Altamont-Labette County and 37 points behind Baldwin in fifth place. Wamego won the meet as a team, with Hugoton, De Soto, and Andale placing second, third and fourth.
Rachford was the top runner for the Chieftains, medaling with a ninth-place finish and a time of 17:13.95. Rachford was happy he was able to medal and have a strong race at his final opportunity. The top-three Chieftain runners at the meet, including Caleb Himpel, who finished 38th, Dalton Harrington, who finished 53rd, and Rachford, are all seniors who completed their Tonganoxie cross country careers Saturday.
“I’ve been real proud of them and their attitude this season,” Williams said. “They’ve really matured and done a good job.”
With the loss of the team’s top three runners to graduation, Williams will look to the younger runners to step up and lead the team next year and knows this experience at the state meet will be valuable.
“We had two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior on the other four (varsity spots) and I think that’s a valuable experience and hopefully they put in some miles in the offseason and we can be pretty competitive next year,” Williams said. “I’m not sure if we’ll be as good as this year, but time will tell.”
Rachford and the other seniors will leave high school as members of the seventh-best high school team in the state. Rachford credits hard work and four years of varsity experience to their success.
“Our freshman year, we were kind of the raw-kind-of-build guys. We were not big enough to go out for football and we definitely didn’t have the skills to go play with the soccer team, so we went out for cross country,” Rachford said. “Last year, that’s where we stepped up and decided to grow as a team, and just be able to go out and do the miles, run the workouts, not complaining and be able to have a good mindset.”