Cobras, Panthers get taste of postseason in tough Horton meet
Competition is heating up for area cross country teams with regionals drawing near and both Jackson Heights and Royal Valley got a taste of that in the Horton Invitational last Thursday.
One of the largest meets of the season (along with the following meet in Sabetha), Horton served as sort of a simulation for the regional meet for the Cobras and Panthers and provided one of the biggest challenges of the season for the teams.
“It provides everything that we could want to prepare us for our postseason if we’re fortunate to get there,” JHHS coach Brad Alley said. “It’s a good testing ground for us and it’s a good training ground for us.”
The main difference, though, is that JHHS will compete against all Class 2A schools in state and regional competition and not be the second smallest school in the meet like the team was on Thursday.
Despite that, the Cobras continued to plow forward, as the boys team picked up its third straight top four finish as a group. While Alley noted there were some inconsistencies in the overall performance for the first time, the top five were still separated by a mere 30 seconds and lead runners Dalton Chartier and Xavier Fritz continued to set the tone.
“I thought those two boys up there, Dalton and Xavier, ran really smart races and they really pushed the pace. They were really trying to bring us along,” Alley said.
Jackson Heights pushed ahead of some teams it has competed against previously on Thursday, which Alley said was a good sign, and the coach noted it was good to see the four Cobra girls continue to get stronger in their performances at Horton.
After suffering through some bumps and bruises early in the season, Alley noted the female runners seem to be hitting peak form.
Brianna Cattrell and Alexis Rieschick continue to progress after early injuries and both finished just outside of medal contention at the Horton meet. Meanwhile, freshman Faith Little is a fixture in the top five, but the most pleasant surprise may have been in Hanna Davault’s return to action.
“My advice to her was, ‘hey, this is a training day. Don’t necessarily worry about where you’re at,’ because we weren’t sure how she was going to perform,” Alley said. “I said just treat it like it’s a day for us to get us back into gear and I thought she ran well. She wasn’t expecting to medal and she was right there and I think you’re going to see Hanna take off from here.”
Davult medaled in 25th place at Horton after practicing once during her two-week hiatus (illness) from meet competition.
All of the Cobras will look to keep moving onward and upward in the team’s next meet at Sabetha on Thursday. Races will start at 4 p.m.
For the Panthers, Horton might not have been the team’s best meet, but coach Keith Pelton believes his team will get a lot out of it.
“You’re going have a bump and we had some bumps this past week,” Pelton said.
The Royal Valley boys weren’t at full strength in Horton, with some runners just getting over illness or injury, but young runners like Garrett Pruyser stepped up and illustrated the depth the team could have for postseason competition.
Meanwhile, the Lady Panthers are clearly front-loaded and Kaytlyn Gooderl has been an anchor for the team and her consistency may be helping sophomore Katie Hanshaw in particular as the younger runner paced the Royal Valley girls with a 12th-place finish in Horton. As tight as the pair where through the race, Pelton also noted the layout might have played in Hanshaw’s advantage on Thursday.
“They both have strengths throughout the course and they have to use them. I think this last course was just geared more to Katie than it was to Kaytlyn,” Pelton said.
It was a challenging course and some of the runners may have gotten “psyched out,” according to the coach, but the Panthers have to learn from the tough week especially as the team will now have some time off before returning to action for Big Seven League competition at Lake Perry on Thursday, Oct. 15.