HESSTON — A pair of Halstead High School freshmen set a high bar for the next three years in Central Kansas League cross country after a 1-2 finish Thursday at the CKL Championships at the Hesston Golf Course.

The host Swather boys stayed in a pack and was able to retain the team title for the second straight year.

Steven Cline of Halstead won the meet in a time of about 17:08, followed by teammate Patrick Porch.

"It couldn't be any better," Cline said. "God couldn't have given us a better game. It was a great day to run."

"It was great out there," Porch said. "We just had a great race. (For regionals,) we need to work on finishes and finiding a pace and keeping it."

"The way they work, they're very deserving of it," Halstead coach Curtis Vermillion said. "They lead us every day in practice. They're good kids. They work hard. They help the other kids as well."

In the team standings, Hesston edged Halstead 43-49. Pratt was third at 56. Complete results were not received at deadline.

"We've been working very hard on staying together," Hesston coach Nealee Johnston said. "I've been preaching that a lot. We've been trying to stay as close together from one to seven. We have a good run of kids coming in together, and that was good to see."

"We knew coming in Hesston was the team to beat," Vermillion said. "They were the defending league champs. I give them a lot of credit. They ran well. I can't ask any more out of my kids. We went 1-2 with a couple of freshmen. We had a sophomore in seventh. Then we had another freshman as our number five runner. My kids practiced hard this week. They gave it everything they got. We have a week to regroup. We want to be in the top three at regional and qualify for state."

The Hesston girls finished third in the team standings.

Both Hesston and Halstead compete in the Class 3A regionals Oct. 26 at Lake Afton. Other top teams there include Wichita Independent, Belle Plaine and Hutchinson Trinity.

"We need to step up with our number four and five guys," Vermillion said. "That could be the difference. We need to be really focused. If they get closer to our one, two and three, that could be the difference between going and not going. The last time we had a boys' team qualify was 1997."

"We'll be there, Halstead will be there," Johnston said. "We'll just see what happens. I hope we have another good day like we had tonight. I can hope and I can pray, but it all comes down to running the race that day. That's why we do it. Since I've been here, we've never run at Lake Afton. We just have to maintain our focus and keep working hard."