The Newton High School cross country team will send seven boys and a girl to state following the Class 5A regional meet Saturday morning at Centennial Park.
The Railer boys qualified as a team after a second-place team finish. The top three teams and top five runners not on a top-three team advances.
Andover topped the Newton boys 28-64. Emporia was third at 79. Salina South was fourth at 102, followed by Salina Central at 118, Wichita Heights at 134, Topeka West at 173 and Valley Center at 209.
The girls’ team standings were extremely close. Salina South edged Emporia 73-74 for the title. Valley Center and Andover each scored 80 points. Valley Center won the sixth-runner tie-breaker 32-open to advance to state.
Newton missed a state berth by four points at 84, followed by Salina Central at 103 and Topeka West at 168.
The race featured wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour, which slightly slowed a normally very fast course.
“This is like six out of eight or seventh out of nine for the boys,” Newton coach Richard Mick said. “It’s about our third year in a row taking second. I’d like to get over the hump, but it’s good to get them in. We’ve had those top three guys up there all year. Every week, they’re getting better. On paper, (the girls) were somewhere between three and five. We were hoping things would work out for us today. If you ran that race again, it might come out totally different. That’s how close one through five were. It’s unfortunate the girls didn’t make it. They have been very positive and supportive of each other. I wish the whole team was going.”
The Railers were led by junior Alaina Stucky, who took second in the girls’ race to advance to state for the third straight year. Stucky finished in 21:09.61.
Abigail Stewart of Emporia won in 20:19.97.
“The wind was pretty difficult,” Stucky said. “It was pretty difficult at the end. It didn’t affect me as much as I thought it would. Abby Stewart, I have been running against that girl since my freshman year. I have always looked up to her. She pushed me through the whole race.”
In the boys’ race, Asher Moen of Andover won the race in 17:04.48, followed by Keetan Munsell of Salina South in 17:07.35 and Garrett Mick in third in 17:14.79.
“My dad really stresses not worrying about (the wind),” Garrett Mick said. “Everybody has to run in it. Everytime we get hit in the face with the wind, we know we’re going to turn around and have it at our back, especially because this course has so many turns. This was probably the worst wind we’ve ever had to run here. I still had a decent time. It might have been a course PR.”
Garrett Mick is a senior, heading to state for his fourth year. He said he is looking at running at Newman or Hutchinson Community College, or just attending Kansas State.
Two more Newton boys claimed medals — Erik Brown in eighth in 17:43.32 and Erik Jantz in ninth in 17:55.31.
Antonio Negrete finished 20th in 18:48.48, followed by Jonah Hodge in 24th in 18:55.98, Eli Blaufuss in 26th in 19:01.42 and Luke Schmidt in 29th in 19:11.14.
For the girls, Lylia Fernandez finished 15th in 22:34.04, followed by Megan Bartel in 16th in 22:35.38, Jaden Anton in 21st in 22:43.56, Elaina Bergquist in 31st in 23:44.13, Emily Penner in 42nd in 26:29.27 and Acacia Penner in 44th in 27:32.69.
The state meet is Saturday at Rim Rock Farms. The Class 5A boys’ race starts at 10:35 a.m., followed by the girls at 12:20 p.m.
“It’s my last week running, so I’m pumped,” Garrett Mick said. “It will be fun. I want to medal and try to PR if the weather permits. I love that course. I just want to enjoy my last week as a senior in cross country. I love this team. It’s awesome.”
“I want to get top 15 again, like I did last year,” Stucky said. “It’s a lot different running at Newton and Rim Rock. They are polar opposites. Rim Rock has really grown on me and I really like running there.”
“We just need to sharpen up, make sure we’re rested up,” Richard Mick said. “We’ll do a little more speed work, but the main thing is just get rested and get healthy. We always have Rim Rock in the back of our mind the whole year when we’re training. Even in the summer, we go out and find hills wherever we can. We’ve had kids go up there and do it. We’ve had a lot of medalists over the years. Garrett and Alaina did it last year. We just have to be mentally prepared.”