KEARNEY — With the Nebraska’s top six cross country teams toeing the line in the Class A race at the UNK Cross Country Invitational, Kearney High coach Pat McFadden knew how the race could serve as a midseason barometer for his team.
“This was the state meet,” he said.
And if it was a preview of the event a few weeks from now, then his team has just a little bit of work left to do this season.
The Bearcats finished fifth out of 16 teams with 126 points at the invite Monday at the Kearney Country Club.
Megan Sughroue was the top KHS finisher, placing eighth with a 20:26 time, and the team placed it’s top five runners in the top 40.
While there were a couple teams missing, including Millard South, all the other contenders were there. Lincoln Southwest won the event with 51 team points, while Papillion-LaVista South finished with 92. But the top six teams aren’t all cut and dry when it comes to finishing order, and McFadden said he thinks he’s got a team that’s once again in the mix.
Lincoln East, for example, the state’s No. 2 team finished fifth, one point ahead of Kearney.
“It’s who is on and who is not and I’m certainly betting that are team is going to have a good couple weeks of work here and getting our legs underneath us and finish strong,” McFadden said.
The coach added that he is confident his team is at the point of making the leap to be even more competitive up front, particularly as they adjust to this season’s longer 5K race distance.
“I think all of our girls are starting to hit their stride in terms of understanding the race,” McFadden said. “They look like they are just on the brink of making it even better than what they are now. The heart and the competitiveness in the way they want to run is there.”
Sughroue said this race gives her and the team a good indicator of what’s to come and even how to race at the state meet.
“I kind of look for who I should be looking for to go ahead at state and go with and just know my placement now and then just kind of work up,” Sughroue said.
And she said Monday’s result solidified where the Bearcats stand.
“It looks like we’re up there again this year,” she said. “We’re going to have to work hard if we want to place at state.”
KHS boys continue to improve
KEARNEY — The question entering the cross country season for the Kearney High boys team was who would run with Keaton Lewis and Robbie Pottoff.
The answer is getting clearer.
The Bearcats’ boys cross country team placed fifth out of 15 teams in the Class A race Monday at the UNK Cross Country Invitational, and all seven varsity runners finished in the top 55.
Lewis led the team with a 16:54 time, good for a ninth place finish, and Pottoff finished in 32nd with a 17:46 time.
With Lewis and Pottoff as the only returning KHS runners with experience, the team needed to find depth this season, and the newer runners are beginning to find their form. Trysten Compton finished 10 seconds behind Pottoff with a 17:56 time, and the final four varsity runners finished within 25 seconds of that time.
“They are starting to figure out how to run the races and things are getting a little bit easier once they get more mileage under them,” coach Broc Howard said about his third through eighth runners.
And the front runner, Lewis, is improving as well, according to Howard.
“It starts from the top with Keaton,” Howard said. “He ran much better than what he has the last couple races and that’s where it starts.”
Lewis said his race strategy was to stick with Grand Island’s Colin Appel, and then he picked up the pace halfway through the race. He added that this was one of the first meets where the team ran with fresher legs, instead of training straight through a race.
The race, held on the state course, also has its advantages for the season’s conclusion.
“It shows where you’re at right now and it’s really nice to run the state course before you run in state,” Lewis said.