By Mark Schnabel
For the first time in three years, both the Newton High School boys’ and girls’ cross country teams will be heading for the Class 5A state meet, scheduled for Saturday at Rim Rock Farms, just outside of Lawrence.
The boys’ race starts at 10:30 a.m., followed by the girls at 11:30 a.m.
The girls won the regional meet last week in Emporia while the boys took second.
“I think the boys took a lot of people by surprise,” Newton coach Richard Mick said. “They didn’t surprise me. We have a lot of talented runners. They just kept getting better and better as the season went along. We lost a couple of boys mid-season, and I think some people didn’t expect us to do as well after that. We got Austin Lettau back for regionals, and he ran a great race. We also had some young runners step up and do well for us.’
Sophomore Laban Lalouettte claimed a medal for the Railers, taking second at regionals.
The Railer girls claimed three medals at regionals — junior Shannon Ahlstedt, senior Erin Loeffler and senior Mallorie Coffman.
“The girls had an extraordinarily good season,” Mick said. “The runners put in a lot of miles over the summer and it really paid off. We have some very talented runners who have had a lot of success. This is one of the best girls’ teams we have ever had.”
The highest the Railer girls have ever finished as a team is fifth place, and Mick said the team has a chance to better that.
The leading contender for the Class 5A girls’ team is St. Thomas Aquinas, which took the top seven places at the Bonner Springs regional. Mick looks for Bishop Carroll to be a top contender as well. Lansing was another regional champion.
Mick looks for Bishop Carroll, St. Thomas Aquinas and McPherson to be among the top contenders for the boys. Topeka West also is a regional champion.
“We just need to go out and have a solid race,” Mick said. “If we do that, the scores will take care of themselves. The kids need to go out there and run with a lot of confidence. If they do that, I think they can do well. We have several kids who have a good chance of coming home with a medal.”
The team ran at the mid-season Rim Rock Classic earlier this season, cross country’s equivalent of the Kansas Relays. The meet brings in teams from surrounding states.
Recent rains could have an effect on the course Saturday.
“It’s a tough course anyway,” Mick said. “If its soggy, that’s only going to make it tougher. But it will be tough for everyone. Having run at Rim Rock earlier this year, I’m hoping that’s going to give the kids some confidence.”