Peterson caps breakthrough season at state
Hundreds of runners took their marks and ran in the Class 4A cross country state championship races on Saturday in Wamego.
While Kayla Peterson was the only Basehor-Linwood runner to compete in the races, she was hardly alone.
Basehor-Linwood boys and girls runners were decked out in T-shirts that had Peterson’s name on them and voiced their support for her.
The junior cross country runner was in awe of the support.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” she said. “I thought that was pretty awesome. I was like ‘dang.’ It was nice of them to come. It was pretty cool. All of my teammates were cheering me on and wanting to do this next year. I am hoping they do this next year, too.”
Peterson seemed to feed off the crowd of well-wishers. She finished in 46th place with a time of 17:16.
Peterson competed against 99 of the best Class 4A runners in Kansas.
El Dorado sophomore Molly Milbourn was the state champion in the 4-kilometer race, completing the course in 15:07.25. Wamego senior BreAnna Briggs was second in 15:22.59.
The state race was a fitting ending for Peterson who competed in numerous races and won the Pleasant Ridge Invitational earlier this season.
“It was a great way to end the season,” BLHS coach Jeff Venema said. “All of her teammates were there to cheer her on.”
What separated Peterson from other runners this season was that her approach to running changed. Midway through the season, she wasn’t afraid to run at the front with the best runners in the field and see how long she could last. The strategy paid off as the season went on. She won the Pleasant Ridge Invitational and was an All-Kaw Valley League selection.
Venema said Peterson ran like a seasoned veteran in the state race.
“She is really showing her experience now,” Venema said. “She prepares very well now. She is good at getting mentally and physically ready to go. She runs like a veteran now. She will be an outstanding leader for us next year. It shows by how she goes about her business. I am pleased for her and what she does and what she does for the team.”
While running at state is an honor, Venema said Peterson accomplished it with a combination of talent and hard work.
“You don’t get to her level unless you have ability,” he said. “You take that talent, and you work really, really hard. You understand that nothing is given. She has proven now that she is an elite runner. It is pleasing to see her have that level of success.”
Venema said he wasn’t surprised to see so many BLHS runners make the trip to state to support Peterson.
“She is really well-liked and she is such a bubbly personality,” Venema said. “She is a very friendly person. She never says anything bad. It is easy to cheer when they have success, because (you) know that (they) cheer for you.”