Loss of shoe doesn’t slow Braves’ Kimbrough-French at 4A state cross country
Nothing stood in T.J. Kimbrough-French’s way of having a strong performance at the Class 4A cross country state championships Saturday at Wamego Country Club.
Not a challenging course layout, stiff competition or even a missing shoe could hinder Kimbrough-French’s effort to close out his season in style.
“T.J. had a really good race,” Bonner Springs boys cross country coach Bill Downing said. “There are so many turns in the first mile, and he lost a shoe about 800 meters in.
“I think it’s the third time one of my runners has lost a shoe on that course.”
Kimbrough-French, a BSHS junior, ultimately finished 51st in 18 minutes, 14.05 seconds, one of his best times of the season despite running on a course that’s not favorable for fast times.
After losing his shoe, Kimbrough-French settled into a steady pace and got stronger as the race went on. It’s a racing style that he grew more comfortable with as the season went on and led to good results, with a second-place finish at the Eudora Invitational and a 13th-place finish at regionals.
“He kept moving up throughout the race,” Downing said. “If there’s another half mile, he probably gets another 10 or 15 more guys.”
A runner Kimbrough-French wasn’t going to catch was De Soto junior Angel Vasquez, who captured the 5K state title in 16:30.47. Wamego won the team title with 54 points, Hugoton was second with 112 and De Soto finished third with 114.
Downing said he expects Kimbrough-French’s performance at state to serve as a springboard for a breakthrough senior campaign.
“This can be huge for T.J.,” Downing said. “You saw a little bit of that at the Eudora meet when he claimed that number two spot, and we’ve seen a little bit of him coming through at regionals and then coming through again at state. When he’s in the middle of a race, he started racing and he just started running people down and passing, and he started looking better as the race went on. He’s learning how to be a cross country racer, and it’s going to be huge for him.
“He’s gone to state twice as an individual out of a tough regional, and he’s going to be returning gun for us next year — the top returning runner. And he’s going to have a young group to lead next year.”
Senior Matt Coffman also competed at state and finished 58th in 18:30.31. It wasn’t quite the performance Coffman had hoped for — his goal was a personal-record time of 16:59 — but Downing said the state appearance still was a nice way to cap off an outstanding four-year career for Coffman.
“Matt didn’t have his best race; he had a great week of training going into it, but he probably thinks he started out a little fast,” Downing said.
“I told Matt after the race that he’s had a great career at Bonner, he went to state three times — as a freshman with the team and twice individually — and he’s one of the top five runners I’ve ever had at Bonner. That’s saying something when you consider quite a few of the guys I’ve had have gone on to be All-Americans at the junior college level, and some guys have run at four-year universities. Matt’s right up there with those guys. He’s had a phenomenal high school career.”