Lady Bobcats win first league title
Since the first meet of the season Basehor-Linwood High School cross country coach Jeff Venema knew he had one of the deepest girls' teams in the area. That depth paid off big time last Thursday, as the Lady Bobcats took the league title, thanks to the performance of their sixth runner, junior Katelynn Witt.
Usually only the top five runners from each school count toward the team score. The top five for the Lady Bobcats Thursday were Amanda Vitt (9th place overall, 16:50), Kayla Peterson (10th, 16:52), Megan Tush (15th, 17:28), Emily Lackner (17th, 17:55) and Caren Chellgren (19th, 17:56).
Those five accounted for 63 points, putting BLHS dead even with Tonganoxie for first place. League officials then went to the teams' sixth runners to break the tie and when the official running the medal ceremony announced that Tonganoxie's sixth runner had finished 27th and Witt had finished 21st, it touched off a wild, tearful celebration among the Basehor-Linwood girls.
"This is the best, knowing that I won the league meet for our team, it's so exciting," Witt said. "I'm about ready to start crying."
No team was better equipped to break a tie Thursday than BLHS, with Witt and sophomore Ashtynne Farris easily the strongest 6th and 7th runners in the meet. Farris finished 23nd, just four seconds behind Witt.
"It was just a momentous occasion for us to win this thing," Venema said. "We're just delighted."
Venema said several of his runners told him that during the race some of the other schools' fans were yelling for their runners to "stick with green and gold," something he'd never heard.
By finishing in the top 10, Vitt and Peterson earned first team all-league honors. Tush, Lackner and Chellgren all earned second team, while Witt and Farris secured honorable mentions.
If the other KVL teams need more proof that the Lady Bobcats were the deepest team at Wyandotte County Park on Thursday, they need only look at the junior varsity standings. Basehor-Linwood's JV girls also took first place, with seven runners finishing in the top 12.
Megan Rehm took second with a time of 18:19. She was followed by Maggie Schroeder (4th place, 19:17), Hanna Bates (5th, 19:26), Sydney Stallbaumer (7th, 19:49), Jordanne Leiker (9th, 19:54), Randee Manis (11th, 20:33) and Hannah Auman (12th, 20:44).
Alex Vitt took home a medal in the boys varsity race by finishing 17th, with a time of 18:55. Dakota Heese led the boys junior varsity team, finishing 36th, despite running with a hip injury he suffered playing football.
Witt was the day's biggest hero, though. She had gotten used to finishing sixth or seventh on the Lady Bobcats' ultra-deep roster and when she gutted out the last few yards of Thursday's race it never crossed her mind that they might figure so prominently in the league standings.
"I had no clue," Witt said. "I was just trying to improve my own time and then it came down to this."
Freshman plays key role
Before this year's cross country season started, Venema knew his girls team had a chance to be special. He knew he had a pair of strong senior runners at the top and a reliable group of juniors. He didn't know just how big a boost he would get from freshman Kayla Peterson.
"I knew she'd help us out, but I wasn't certain she'd be good enough to break into our varsity lineup," Venema said. "She's done way more than just break in."
In every meet this year Peterson has finished in Basehor-Linwood's top three, quite a feat for a freshman on a team that won five meets. Peterson was one of the top freshmen at the Kaw Valley League meet last Thursday, and her 10th place finish helped the Lady Bobcats win the title.
At the start of the season Peterson's times were hovering around 19 minutes, but she's gotten steadily better and, on Thursday, set a new personal best at 16:52.
At the beginning of the year, though, even Peterson couldn't envision being a key part of a league championship team.
"I was just kind of planning to come in and start learning from Megan and Amanda," Peterson said.
Right now some of the upperclassmen at BLHS know her only as "Will's sister," but, at the rate she's going, that won't last long. Peterson already has a load of cross country medals and said she plans on going out for basketball and track this year.
In cross country alone it looks like Peterson has the potential to burst out of the shadow of her big brother, who had the best rushing season in BLHS football history last year.
"I think Kayla has a great chance to really make her mark in cross country, if she accepts the challenge to do the proper summer training," Venema said. "I wouldn't bet against her."
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