Lady Panthers CC continues hot streak with strong finish at Big Seven League meet
Winning a league trophy in the Big Seven in cross country is no easy feat. There are plenty of strong teams year in and year out, but the Royal Valley girls entered Thursday’s meet in Topeka riding some success (albeit after an extended break) and held their own on the way to a third-place team finish.
“To finish third in the league is a big accomplishment for us. I thought that they competed at a high level,” RV coach Brad Alley said.
Two runners in particular paved the way as Katie Hanshaw and Kaytlyn Gooderl again finished one and two for the Panthers and both earned All-League honors (top 15 at the league meet) for their finishes, pushing each other every step of the way.
“Right now, I’ve got a pretty fierce competition at the front between Katie Hanshaw and Kaytlyn Gooderl. I think one’s goal is to beat the other and the other one’s goal is to not let the other one beat her,” Alley said. “That worked for them Thursday. They both ran really good races.”
At the league meet, Hanshaw did get the better of Gooderl for the first time this season, coming in 10th while Gooderl finished 11th individually. While those two were a key to the strong performance, they were only a part of the equation.
The ability of the rest of the Lady Panthers, from Tamo Thomas to Lydia Johnson, to pack it in equaled out to a strong finish for Royal Valley as a team in what Alley called an “absolutely loaded” field. It’s a strong finish that could lead to a big confidence boost for the girls team heading into regional competition next week.
While the week off didn’t seem to hinder the girls, the boys were struck by the flu bug in the Panthers’ off weeks and that took its toll at the league meet in Topeka.
Royal Valley was without Arrow Levier for the boys race and Ivan Lever was competing well under 100 percent on Thursday.
Even Kwaki Spoonhunter was still battling effects of an illness that plagued him at the Panthers’ home meet, Alley said, but runners like Patrick Broxterman and Eugene Masquat did their best to fill the gap.
“They’re seniors and that’s what you like to see from your seniors,” Alley said. “They understand that they need to step up to fill some of those spots where kids weren’t there or weren’t feeling quite as well right now. I was awful proud of those guys as seniors.”
In fact, those two along with Spoonhunter managed to earn All-League honors and help Royal Valley to a respectable fifth-place team finish.
While the Panthers might not have finished as highly as they have routinely been in previous meets this season, having some runners at less than 100 percent is something Alley said hopefully taught them a valuable lesson.
“You see how important every runner is when you have someone gone. You start to value your teammates a lot more when you see that,” Alley said.
Royal Valley’s back half on Thursday was made up of a lot of younger runners and while it was not the ideal situation, Alley said it would only help those sophomores and freshmen progress as runners moving forward, especially after seeing the fruits of that work on Thursday in the performance of his senior runners.
Moving forward, the Panthers will look to translate their recent lessons to success on the postseason stage as Royal Valley gets ready for the Class 4A regional meet at Wyandotte County Park in Bonner Springs.
After a strategic race, the girls will be looking to build on some recent success, while the boys will be looking to rebound. The Panthers will enter a similar situation as the league meet, running on a familiar course, and while Alley said that was only a slight advantage the team will still try and make the most of it, knowing the ins and outs, while the Panthers try to punch their ticket to the 4A state meet in Wamego.
In preparation, Royal Valley will compete at the Jackson Heights Invitational at 4 p.m. on Tuesday before regional competition begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Bonner Springs.