Tush, Peterson to race at 4A state championships
Kansas City, Kan. Kayla Peterson and Hannah Tush stood at the starting line and talked before the Class 4A regional cross country race on Saturday at Wyandotte County Park.
“This is my first regional,” Tush, a sophomore said. She was referring to last season’s ankle injury that kept her out of regionals and a potential shot at state. She had waited all year for this race.
“Wow, it is my last,” Peterson said, remembering four years of running and last year’s state race. While she didn’t feel a lot of pressure to re-qualify for state, she didn’t want her career to end just yet.
“Let’s do something good and go to state,” Tush told Peterson.
Then the race started and off the runners went. They ran with the upper tier of the competition and stayed side by side for most of the race. Tush placed 14th overall in 16 minutes, 38 seconds. Peterson was just a stride behind her and placed 15th in 16:39. Both qualified for state individually and will race at noon Saturday, Oct. 31, in Wamego.
Tush said the injury made her want to come back stronger than ever this season.
She said it was difficult to go to state last year and watch Peterson run without being able to compete.
“She did not have an opportunity last year to try for this. It is something when you sit out, you realize how much you miss it,” coach Jeff Venema said. “She was determined this year, and things worked out for her.”
As a result, Tush trained hard to overcome the injury and prepare for this season. Saturday’s race was the culmination of those efforts.
“I am just so thrilled to go. It is like a dream come true,” she said. “I am pretty happy with how I did. I felt like I couldn’t go any harder.”
Tush is making the journey with Peterson. Peterson qualified for state last season and said she looks forward to running there this year with a teammate.
“I am glad that I am not running by myself this year,” she said. “We pushed each other during the season, and now we have to push each other during state.”
During regionals, Peterson said she just wanted to run her best race and let the results sort themselves out.
“This would have been her last race had she not made state,” Venema said. “There was a lot of pressure to keep it going, and she ran a solid race. Again, not surprised at all by how they did. I wanted to see us make it as a team, (but) we just missed again.”
The runners led a team that finished fourth overall — six points behind St. James Academy for the final team berth into state.
“Yeah, it is a real bummer to be that close to going to state as a team and not go, but I am just excited to go,” Tush said.
Not qualifying for state as a team, though, doesn’t negate the strong season the runners had.
“We were clearly an upper echelon team in a difficult regional,” Venema said. “We came up just a little short. What is pleasing is our team did exactly what they were asked to do. They did it and still are not seeing the benefit of getting to move on. They all did well. It’s just a situation where St. James had a great day.”
The Thunders’ top runners finished first and second in the race with Bridgette McCormick and Amy Feldkamp pacing the other runners. Tush and Peterson each beat St. James Academy’s third runner, Alexa Van Lerberg, who finished ahead of the other Bobcats.
“She picked a great time to do a great time for them. She did a great job, but it really spoiled the plan,” Venema said.
Basehor-Linwood runners Shelby Miles, Sheridan Miles and Brooke Redmond finished in the 25th through 27th spots, respectively, defeating the Thunders’ other runners, but it wasn’t enough to make up ground created by St. James’ 1-2 sweep.
On the boys’ side, Brady Blackwood finished 20th with a time of 18:10 and was six seconds off the pace of qualifying for state.
“It is just a tremendous effort on his part,” Venema said. “The competition in 4A boys is ridiculous. I told him, ‘do you know what seven Brady Blackwood’s are? It is Baldwin (team champion). There is no reason you cannot get right in there with them.’ He made a great effort at that.”
The effort fell just short for Blackwood and his teammates.
Mitchell Cook finished 27th, Mike Torrez finished 28th, Bryce Garver was 40th and Tony Almeida placed 41st.
“The strides the boys have made are incredible,” Venema said. “I know people are noticing BLHS boys as someone to account for, which is good. They have worked hard to get that.”