Craig drains the tank at Rim Rock
Moments after finishing his race in the Blue Division at the Rim Rock Farm Invitational, Brandon Craig crumpled onto a table in the medical tent.
"People were asking, 'Did he fall down?'" Lansing High cross country coach Errol Logue said. "I told them, 'No, he just ran out of gas.'
"Every once in a while you'll have a kid just empty the tank, and that's what he did."
Fortunately for Craig, a LHS sophomore, there were a few fumes left in the tank to carry him across the finish line before his weary body gave out.
Yes, on a sunny Saturday morning in rural Lawrence, Craig discovered how it feels for a runner to push himself to the limit - and he did it on the same course where the Class 5A state meet will take place next month. He placed fourth in 17:47. It wasn't his fastest time of the year, but it was his toughest performance as a runner and it came on one of the most challenging courses in the Midwest.
"No question it was (his best race)," said Logue, Lansing's 39th-year coach and the father of a two-time Kansas state champion. "You always say you don't want to leave anything out there, and he sure didn't."
Zach Zarda, a Maranatha Academy senior, finished in 16:55.2 and was the overall champion in the boys' five-kilometer race.
After running with the top-tier runners from the start, Craig charged up suicide hill a half-mile from the finish line and started hunting down other runners along the Jim Ryun Skyline.
"He pushed up the ridge into third," Logue said. "And then this kid caught him, and the way (Craig) was looking, I thought he'd drop back to eighth or ninth : but he wouldn't be denied. He stayed in fourth and was totally exhausted. He really showed a lot of guts."
Craig's performance helped the LHS boys place seventh out of 20 teams in the division. Herculaneum (Mo.) won the team title with 27 points. Omaha-Skutt Catholic (Neb.) was second with 90 points and Shawnee Heights was third with 90.
Also for Lansing, Griffin Davis was 57th in 19:40; Jim Mayes was 63rd in 19:49; Pete LaMoe was 71st in 19:59; Greg Bremser was 89th in 20:22; Ezra Carpenter was 90th in 20:23; and Grant Hinckley was 134th in 21:22.
"Our boys ran together better than they have all year," Logue said.
Logue also had rave reviews for the LHS girls, which also placed seventh as a team with 199 points. Wichita-Bishop Carroll won the team title with 56 points; Herculaneum was second with 90 and Omaha-Skutt Catholic was third with 156.
Lauren Jaqua shook off the asthma troubles that plagued her Tuesday at the Lansing Invitational and turned in a seventh-place finish in 16:21 on the four-kilometer course. Teammate Sarah Nielsen also was a top-20 medalist as she placed 17th in 16:54.
"It's the first time she's broken 17 minutes," Logue said.
Rounding out the LHS squad were Julia Winkler (47th, 17:53), Melanie Pilkington (63rd, 18:15), Cassie Roberts (88th, 18:46) and Kate Meara (111th, 19:42).
LHS ran without sophomore Abbey Lozenski. A state qualifier last year and one of the Lions' top three runners, Lozenski missed the meet with a nagging ankle injury. Logue said doctors had recommended Lozenski be held out of competition until regionals, and Logue said he will abide by that decision.
All in all, Logue said Saturday was a great day of progress for his team, and he said he is eager to see more improvement at 4 p.m. Thursday when the Lions compete at the Pleasant Ridge Invitational.
"This is a fun bunch to work with," he said. "They're getting to be more successful, and it's been a lot of fun. It's always fun as a coach to watch your kids improve."