Rivalry brewing between BLHS and THS
The Tonganoxie High School girls cross country team was ranked eighth in class 4A in the Kansas Coaches Association preseason poll.
The rankings only listed the top eight teams, but if they had gone any further, Basehor-Linwood might have been 8.5.
The Lady Bobcats are that close to their Kaw Valley League rivals, who narrowly beat them last Thursday in a meet at Tonganoxie.
The meet included full teams of seven runners from Basehor-Linwood, Tonganoxie and Kansas City Christian and three runners from Lansing.
As the girls begin rolling into the home stretch it looked as though the Lady Chieftains would run away with the meet. Christy Weller, Andie Jeannin, Jennifer Wagner and Addy Phelps all finished in the top five for Tonganoxie, with Basehor-Linwood senior Amanda Vitt the only other runner to do so, taking third.
With the top 5 placers from each team counting toward the final standings, the Lady Chieftains needed just one more runner to come in. But after Phelps crossed the finish line in fifth place a flurry of green suddenly took over the race.
All six of Basehor-Linwood's other runners came in before another Tonganoxie runner did.
BLHS freshman Kayla Peterson came in sixth with senior Megan Tush right on her heels. Caren Chellgren, who just the day before had to stay home sick, was passed down the stretch by KC Christian's top runner, but still finished in the medals with ninth place. Emily Lackner finished out the medalists with a 10th place finish and even Basehor-Linwood's last two runners played a vital role. By finishing 11th and 12th, sophomores Ashtynne Farris and Katelynn Witt pushed Tonganoxie's fifth runner all the way back to 13th place.
The Lady Chieftains still took first place with 25 points, but the Lady 'Cats were tantalizingly close, finishing with 35. KC Christian, ranked eighth in class 3A, was a distant third at 78.
Tonganoxie also edged out BLHS for second at the KVL meet last year, but with the additions of Peterson and Farris the Lady 'Cats now have a faster team, one through seven, than their rivals.
"We've got a new freshman and a new sophomore who are really fast, so we've got a lot more depth than last year," Vitt said. "We wanted to beat more people, but we'll take it."
BLHS coach Jeff Venema was proud of the effort at Tonganoxie, noting that the Lady Bobcats' varsity squad took five of the 10 medals and Megan Rehm finished second in the junior varsity meet to earn one of the five medals there. Still, he said the squad wouldn't be resting on its laurels.
"We are not happy to come in second to anyone, especially Tonganoxie," Venema said. "We know we have to go back to work and try even harder in our practices, and we will. We're pretty good, but as of now, Tonganoxie is better."
Venema added that he didn't think his girls were getting the recognition they deserved. He said they were overlooked because of all the other talented teams in the area.
"I think we're a top 10 team in the state (in 4A)," he said. "Unfortunately, in our neck of the woods we've got Baldwin (ranked 1st), Tonganoxie (8th), De Soto (4th), etc."
If Vitt continues to improve on Thursday's pace she'll get plenty recognition as the season goes on. Running on the new four kilometer girls course, Vitt finished in 18:09, just 35 seconds off the pace of the winner, Weller.
"It's kind of different because usually you get to a mile and a half and you're like, 'OK, just a half mile left,'" Vitt said. "Now I'm like, 'Oh my God, a whole nother mile.' You can't run at the same pace, you've got to save it longer."
Vitt and her teammates seemed to make the transition with ease at Tonganoxie, placing more runners in the top 10 than any other school, not to mention taking 11th and 12th, as well. For a first meet it was unprecedented success, even for the team's seniors, Vitt and Tush.
"I think that's awesome, we've never had that before," Vitt said. "I think it shows signs of a great season."
Basehor-Linwood only had two varsity runners on the boys side of the meet. Alex Vitt finished in 13th place and senior co-captain Stephen Dyer finished 17th. Venema said he was happy with their performances, considering it was the first meet of the year.
The BLHS cross country team is in action next at 4:30 on Thursday, Sept. 7 in Atchison at the Maur Hill Tournament.