For the first time in several years, both the Newton High School boys’ and girls’ cross country teams have qualified for state following top three team finishes Saturday at the Class 5A regionals at Centennial Park.
Andover won the boys’ title with 29 points, followed by Great Bend at 47 and Newton at 86. Hays won the girls’ title at 63 points, three points better than Newton. Salina Central was third at 81.
“That’s an exciting day for us,” Newton coach Richard Mick said. “That was our goal to get them both qualified. It’s fantastic that both teams came through. Our girls did what they have been doing all year. That’s a good solid group of runners. We told them today, both teams, don’t overthink things and just get out there and compete. Battle the whole way and they did.”
Salina Central junior Kayden Cobb won the girls’ race in 20:41.25, 3.53 seconds ahead of Newton senior Alaina Stucky. Elizabeth Vetter of Andover was third in 20:50.18.
“It was good,” Cobb said. “Alaina and I always run close together. Last week (at league), she beat me. It was good to have somebody to compete with. I felt good, but she did a great job.”
Cobb missed state last year because of an injury, but competed as a freshman.
“We didn’t get to run at Rim Rock this year, so I’m excited,” Cobb said. “Last year, I was out. I tore my ACL. I got 14th at state as a freshman. Getting in the top 10 would be an awesome goal, but there are a lot of good runners. I’ll have to work hard for that.”
“I’m was shooting for first place,” Stucky said. “I’m glad I had someone to compete with. She ended up having a little more at the end than I had. It’s very emotional for me because this is my last home meet. I was trying to do the best I can to stick with her. I’m hoping to break my own record at Rim Rock and maybe medal. I was regional runner-up last year and ran a 40-second PR at Rim Rock, but I was still 23rd. I’m going in with a lot of confidence.”
“Alaina has been our leader all year and had another solid race today,” Mick said. “She’s one of the best runners in this area and the whole state. The girls have come together and had a lot of success this year.”
Rounding out the Newton lineup were junior Ashley Salgado in 12th in 21:52.18, two spots out of a medal; freshman Gabriella Mayes in 15th in 22:04.12; senior Lylia Fernandez in 17th in 22:08.44; senior Megan Bartel in 28th in 23:04.56; junior Emily Penner in 47th in 25:52.84; and freshman Ivory Tilden in 48th in 26:41.66.
Andover senior Asher Moen won the boys’ race in 16:53.66, 3.43 seconds better than junior teammate Ryan Kinnane. Keetan Munsell of Salina South was third in 17:00.00.
“I was happy with it,” Moen said. “I went out a little slow and wanted to save more. At the end, I was able to have enough to power through. We were hoping for (the team title) four years in a row. That was my goal. I’d like to break 16 at state and finish in the top three as well. I got sixth there last year.”
Newton was led by junior Erik Jantz in fourth in 17:26.94. Senior Noah Massanari claimed the ninth-place medal in 17:47.28.
“It went pretty well,” Jantz said. “The course was pretty muddy. You just had to run through the mud. I was trying to stick with the top three runners — the South runner and the two Andover runners. I couldn’t bridge that so my focus was to run as hard as I could. The most important thing was the team. At state, I just want to run fast. Rim Rock is a nice course, a tough course. I got my season PR last year and got 55th place. I hope to do better this year. The uphills are tough, but the downhills carry you. I want to run uphill as fast as I can. The course can carry you to a PR.”
“Erik’s been solid all year,” Mick said. “Noah has really been coming on the last couple of weeks. He’s been up there close to Erik. We knew he could do that. He’s had injury problems throughout the years, but he’s healthy now. We told the boys, ‘just because you were five last week doesn’t mean you have to be five this week. You can be three or four.’”
Rounding out the Newton boys were sophomore Luke Schmidt in 21st in 18:36.09, junior Eli Blaufuss in 22nd in 18:36.69, sophomore Benjamin Gering in 30th in 19:17.32, freshman Caleb Koontz in 35th in 19:25.97 and senior Jonah Hodge in 41st in 19:48.72.
Both the Newton boys and girls will compete Saturday at the state meet at Rim Rock Farm outside of Lawrence.
“We have a nice little streak for the boys and wanted to keep that intact,” Mick said. “We had a lot of good runners in the past and the same for this year to carry that on. For the girls, it’s been three or four years since they’ve gone (as a team). The main thing is staying confident and not being satisfied with this. They deserve this. You never know what to expect at the state meet. We make it a point to go to the Rim Rock Classic. A lot of our veteran runners have been there and they know what to expect. It’s a challenging course and a challenging race.”