To keep the crowds lower and ensure a little more social distancing from the runners and the crowds, the Newton High School Invitational cross country meet was broken into two sections this year.

Newton ran in the morning section with the boys taking fourth and the girls finishing sixth. Maize South swept the team titles in the morning session, while the Dodge City girls and Wamego boys were the team winners in the afternoon section.

Alexa Rios of Maize South won the girls’ morning race in 18:49.68, while Serenity Larson of Dodge City won the afternoon race in 20:00.82.

"I was wanting to break the school record today and with the wind, I wasn’t able to do that," Rios said. "I have asthma and cough a lot. I still ran in the area I wanted to run, so I’m not too mad about that. The conditions were perfect minus the wind, and it’s usually pretty hard to run by yourself. You don’t have a little barrier for the wind."

Rios said she ran a minute faster from last year’s race. She was third at state. Her team also took third.

Kaiden Esfeld of Great Bend won the boys’ morning race in 16:39.30, while Devin Chappel of Garden City won the afternoon race in 16:52.16.

"It went pretty good," said Esfeld, a sophomore. "It went a lot better than what I was thinking. I probably should have ran a little bit faster, but I still have a pretty good kick from the finish and the start."

Esfeld said he waited until the last 500 meters to make his final move. He was a state qualifier last year.

For the Railer boys, Luke Schmidt and Kaden Anderson each claimed medals. Schmidt finished ninth in 17:45.42. Anderson was 15th in 18:04.27.

Nick Treaster was 27th in 18:38.06, Elijah Edwards was 30th in 18:47.43, Gabriel Gaeddert was 31st in 18:53.84, Ben Gehring was 33rd in 19:11.19 and Drew Dillon was 37th in 19:32.95.

For the Railer girls, Aspen Schmidt was 27th in 22:30.76, Isabel Sandoval was 33rd in 23:03.87, Emily Torres was 36th in 23:39.22, Elia Bergquist was 37th in 23:39.44 and Ella Mayes was 42nd in 24:28.70.

"We’ve been working on PRs consistently," Newton coach D.J. Bookout said. "If we don’t get PRs, we’ve been working on manageable parts of the race. The kids all ran consistently better than last year. This is a really tough course. All our guys ran under 20. Most were under 19. We’re getting there."

Newton competes Saturday at the El Dorado Invitational at El Dorado State Park. The Railers follow with league and regionals.

"We have good competition to keep us sharp," Bookout said. "All these area 5A schools, we’re all kind of using each other to get ahead. There’s no slacking off until the end of October."