Braves’ runners heading to state
Only 12 teams remain that have a shot at the 5A boys state cross country crown and the Bonner Springs Braves of are one of them.
The Braves put on their best showing of the season last Saturday, claiming second place at the regional meet in Shawnee Mission Park. Paced by senior Brock Petersons second-place performance, the team scored 75 points and claimed one of the four state berths at the meet.
The good news was not all on the boys side. A Bonner Springs girl also qualified for the state meet. Junior Morgan McConico placed 15th overall to claim a spot in the state field.
The boys will be making their third straight trip to state, the second straight at the 5A level.
What coach Bill Downing emphasized was how much his team improved in times.
Everyone dropped their PRs (personal records) from 30 to 50 seconds. The old saying is the race is 90 percent mental and that is true. We had some kids believe they could do it and they did, Downing said.
Peterson came in second with a time of 16:44, 47 seconds faster than his previous best time on a 5K course. Coming in second for the Braves was Steve Lutjen, eighth at 17:28, followed by Mike Ashford, 17th at 17:52, Chris Stakely was 24th at 18:21; and Donnie Shepherd rounded out the team scoring with a 26th place finish at 18:29. The other Braves competing were Jon Van Maren, 41st at 19:14 and Jack Holtzen, 44th at 19:35.
Our fourth and fifth runners really stepped up. Mike Ashford jumped all the way to 17th place. I told Stakely and Shepherd before the race that I needed both of them in the top 30 and their times to be in the 18:20s, and look at what they did, they really stepped up, Downing said.
Bonner Springs 75 points was second only to Topeka Seamans 39. Turner was fourth with 86 points, followed by Gardner-Edgerton with 99, Bishop Miege at 110, Paola at 129 and Shawnee Heights at 136.
Stakely said the years preparation and mental approach paid off.
I didnt think about the pain. I thought about something else, which was what coach told us to do. I thought about how great it would be to beat Turner and what it would be like to go to state, he said.
Peterson said that the teams success helped with the disappointment of not winning the individual title.
I am really glad we made it as a team. It would have been nice to be a regional champion, but I am pleased with my time and I think it will help me focus more on the state meet, Peterson said.
He and Ashford are the only Braves who have competed at state before and Peterson said he hopes they can relay their past experience onto teammates.
You dont know how you are going to react at state, but we are just trying to tell everyone you have to run your race, Peterson said. There is a lot of activity at the state, but you cant think about it. You have to approach it like its any other race. Thats the mentality you have to have.
Peterson noted that after finishing 15th at state last year, his goal is to make it to the top five.
I will have to run with a lot of intensity. It is state and it is my last race as a high school cross country runner. I will have to leave it all on the course, that is going to be my approach, he said.
McConicos 15th place finish landed her in the state field and Downing said she might be the first girl from Bonner Springs ever to qualify.
I know there werent any in the 80s or 90s, so if there was you would have to go back to the 1970s at least, Downing said.
This is my first year running cross country and I dont know anyone who has ever gone to state, so this is very exciting. It feels kind of special, McConico said.