Young THS boys runners follow lead of 3 seniors
There aren’t many meets left on the schedule for Tonganoxie High’s boys cross country team, which finished second at its most recent event Thursday at the Maranatha Academy Invitational, in Shawnee.
As the Chieftains hit the home stretch, though, they continue to show the type of consistency that could help them qualify for state for the second year in a row.
Tonganoxie’s top three seniors — Patrick Rachford, Dalton Harrington and Caleb Himpel — finished in the top 15 Thursday. Their coach, Phil Williams, said Rachford (second), Harrington (fifth) and Himpel (15th) form a strong senior class and their presence and desire to get to state has impacted the team’s younger runners.
“Seniors have a deadline,” Williams said. “They have to do it this year or it’s their last chance. The younger kids don’t always have that feeling.
“Seniors, when you get a good group of seniors like we have, their dedication is really strong. It does set a good example and I think the younger kids kind of pick up on it.”
THS junior Jeff Neal said the seniors help them out a lot, which has led to the team’s successful season.
“They’re always pushing us to get faster, be at our best,” Neal said.
The freshmen, sophomores and juniors do their best to keep up with the three seniors. Neal said that’s not always easy: “We try,” he said with a grin.
Because the younger runners are inspired to help Tonganoxie succeed, Neal (17th) and others, such as Garret French, Asher Huseman and Clayton Himpel, have been key components of the team’s success, too.
Williams said the Chieftains’ fifth runner is usually a minute or so behind the team’s No. 1 runner, Rachford.
“Patrick has been up toward the front or at the front most of the races,” the coach said, “but if you don’t have a fourth or fifth runner coming up fairly close, then your team score isn’t gonna be very good at all.”
Ideally, Williams added, he would like to see THS have its top five less than a minute apart. But Rachford’s success has made that extra-challenging.
“It’s hard to keep the pack together when your number one is clear up front,” Williams noted.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the guys back in the pack aren’t trying to make it happen. Neal said he and other runners take pride in their ability to stay relatively close to the team’s top runners and they’re always looking to improve.
“From last season, I’ve brought my time down by a minute,” Neal said. “If we can get our sixth and seventh runner up closer and to where they’re competing for that fifth spot, we’ll be better.”
Neal thought THS ran fairly well on Thursday and said as good as things are going, the Chieftains can be even better.
“I think if we all just work really hard at practice the next couple weeks, I think we can do really well at regional and KVL,” Neal said.
Williams also hopes the Chieftains can get even better. They will have a tough regional on Oct. 22 at Wyandotte County Park, in Bonner Springs, the coach said, but if the runners can peak at just the right time they might be able to reach their lofty goal: A top-three finish at state.
Tonganoxie’s final regular-season meet begins at 5 p.m. Thursday at Pleasant Ridge, in Easton.
Maranatha Academy Invitational
Thursday at Shawnee
Team scores: 1. Christ Preparatory Academy, 37; 2. Tonganoxie, 57; 3. Kansas City Christian, 65; 4. Maranatha Academy, 88.
THS results: 2. Patrick Rachford, 17:17.79; 5. Dalton Harrington, 17:49.1; 15. Caleb Himpel, 18:22.23; 17. Jeff Neal, 18:31.84; 19. Garrett French, 18:45.48; 24. Asher Huseman, 19:15.69; 25. Clayton Himpel, 19:19.99.
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