Footloose Chieftains: Tonganoxie cross country qualifies both teams for state for 1st time in a decade
Tonganoxie High coach John Tollefson is no stranger to taking runners to the 4A state meet. However, the THS cross country team accomplished something that has never been done in Tollefson’s five years as coach.
For the first time since 2006, the Chieftains qualified both the boys and girls cross country teams for the 4A state championships. The boys placed second as a team, and the girls placed third.
“It feels pretty tremendous,” Tollefson said. “It’s what we talk about each year, that’s the end goal, to get both teams there. It feels really good.”
Senior Drew Cook led the boys with a third-place finish and junior Mia Bond led the girls with a fourth-place finish.
“It feels really great,” Cook said. I’m really glad the whole team could go. I feel on top of the world right now.”
The Chieftains had to deal with the hilly course at Pierson Park in Kansas City. Tollefson said the team practiced running on hills for the past few weeks, and the Chieftains had to deal with the hilly course at Pierson Park in Kansas City. But the hill’s allowed Cook to use a strategy that allowed him to hang on to third place in a tight race.
“My strategy revolved around Bear Hill, mainly not killing it around Bear Hill,” Cook said. “I was saving myself for the last mile. I really battled to hold off the Hayden kid in fourth.”
Along with Cook, Calvin Morgan, Carter Kietzmann and Chandler Hamman all placed in the top 20 for the boys. In fact, nobody finished outside of the top half of the race, which Tollefson cited as a big reason why the boys walked away with a second-place plaque.
“It’s really important,” Tollefson said. “We work on that pack mentality where we try to stay close to each other to be able to talk to each other.”
Outside of simply encouraging each other, Tollefson likes this strategy for other reasons. Because each runner gets points based on where they place, it’s more beneficial for the team if a pack of runners is able to pass somebody else than if it’s just one runner. Also, Tollefson said it’s more difficult for other teams to pass a pack than just one person.
The girls team was also to employ a similar strategy behind Bond. Emily Chambers, Emma Campbell, Mathia Slinkard and Hope Creten all placed in the top 30. The other two runners — Sierra Staatz and Alyssa Scott — both had complications during the race.
Tollefson said Scott tripped on the course and was unable to complete the race. After spending most of the race among the top 20 runners, Staatz collapsed in the home stretch of the race and placed 54th after crawling to the finish line.
“To just finish five runners that were upright and still qualify says a lot about the strength of that group of girls,” Tollefson said.
Tollefson insists that his team will stay the course in practice this week before they travel to the state meet on Saturday morning at the Wamego Country Club. The girls will race at 10:35 a.m. and the boys will race at 12:20 p.m.
It’s nice to qualify as an individual,” Cook said, “but it’s great to go as a team.”
- Wamgo, 63; 2. Tonganoxie, 70; 3. Spring Hill, 94; 4. Topeka Hayden, 99; 5. Baldwin, 142; 6. Atchison, 167; 7. Basehor-Linwood, 187; 8. Bonner Springs, 206; 9. Eudora, 215; 10. St. George-Rock Creek, 254; 11. Shawnee Mission-Miege, 255; 12. Carbondale-Santa Fe Trail, 300; 13. Jefferson West, 387
- Baldwin, 68; 2. Basehor-Linwood, 71; 3. Tonganoxie, 80; 4. Shawnee Mission-Miege, 98; Eudora, 118; 6. Atchison, 164; 7. Wamego, 185; 8. Spring Hill, 199; 9. Jefferson West, 216; 10. St. George-Rock Creek, 252; 11. Bonner Springs, 279; Topeka-Hayden, 301.
- Drew Cook, 17:24; 7. Calvin Morgan, 17:47; 9. Carter Kietzmann, 17:50; Chandler Hamman, 18:23; Jakob Foley, 19:01; Dylan Graham, 19:11.
- Mia Bond, 20:35; 11. Emily Chambers, 21:33; 20. Emma Campbell, 22:08; 23. Mathia Slinkard, 22:19; 27. Hope Creten, 22:33; 54. Sierra Staatz, 24:32; Alyssa Scott, did not finish.