Cross Country Runs To Regional Titles

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When the boys and girls cross country teams stepped up to the starting line at Shawnee Mission Park at the regional meet Saturday, they had no idea that later they would both be hoisting first place plaques. Along with two first place team awards, two individuals took home first place medals. As head coach Jeff Onnen described it, “Today was the best day in Shawnee Mission West cross country history.” And there’s no doubt in the runners’ minds that it truly was.

The girls team has had an up-and-down season coming into the meet, but they bounced back at regionals and barely edged Shawnee Mission Northwest, their biggest competitor in the meet. The Vikings beat their rivals by a single point team-wise, with a total of just 37 points between their top five runners. Junior Alli Cash took home the first place prize for individuals, clocking in at 14:25, over a minute faster than every other runner.

“We did pretty good today. A couple of us had better races than usual, and some worse, but we were able to pull it out,” Cash said.

Though the girls surprisingly took home first, they are more looking forward to next weekend, where they can try and redeem themselves at state. They lost last year on a tie-breaker with Olathe East. This will be the third year in a row that the girls team will be competing at state as a team, and they again have high expectations.

“We really want to win. Hopefully the third time’s a charm for us,” junior Caitlin Hooper said

Hooper placed third with a time of 15:31. Behind Hooper was senior Molly Smith, who placed 7th. Smith was the third of three Vikings to receive medals, which were awarded to the top 10 individuals.

The boys team has had a surprisingly successful season, posting incredible times race after race, but today was their best day yet, as they were able to take down Shawnee Mission South, the top-ranked team in the state.

“Our top five runners were solidly under 17 minutes. We’re going to be pretty hard to beat at the Nike Regional,” senior Jonah Heng said.

Heng, who won the race with a time of 15:42, is highly anticipating the Nike Regional, which will take place two weeks after state in South Dakota. Coming in 6th place was senior Ryan Lansdon, who clocked in at 16:10, nearly breaking his previous best. After the top two runners, the Vikings held strong, thanks to the perseverance of juniors Ryan Cooney and J Geracie, and senior Jeb Stewart. All three of them broke 17 minutes, running impertinent races. In other words, they didn’t go out too fast.

“We did really well. We just did what we needed to do,” Geracie said.

Geracie was neck-and-neck with a South runner in his kick, and though he didn’t pass him, Geracie was still proud of his accomplishments; he ran a personal best on Saturday, and was a major factor in the Vikings’ first place team finish. The boys team defeated South by eight points.

“I saw the South guy and when he saw my shoulder, I just took off with him,” Geracie said.

As the boys team heads to state for the third year in a row, they are expecting to place higher than last year. But Shawnee Mission Park is considered “an easier course” than Rim Rock Farm, where state is held. It will be a bigger challenge for the boys team.

“Rim Rock is different. There are a lot more hills, but we’ll see,” Geracie said.

With such a stacked team, they should have no problem placing in the top three, or possibly becoming state champions next week. The only team that was standing in their way before regionals was South, and the Vikings beat them at Shawnee Mission Park on Saturday.

“We’re just going to have to do what we did today,” Onnen said.

Coach Onnen only had one word to describe the overall meet: awesome. He was blown away by the determination and poise that both teams demonstrated at this year’s regional.

“All the pieces fit together perfectly today,” Onnen said.

Photos courtesy of Ryan Cooney