Panther boys cross country team takes Big Seven League title
For much of the season, the Royal Valley boys cross country team has been chasing down plenty of tough competition, focusing in particular on Big Seven foes Hiawatha and Sabetha.
The Panthers finally caught up to their prey and pounced at the league meet in Perry on Thursday, as the RVHS boys jumped ahead of both the Red Hawks and the Blue Jays on the way to a Big Seven League team championship.
While senior Kwaki Spoonhunter was in peak form and led the team with an eighth-place finish, youth was served for Royal Valley as well with three freshmen and three sophomores competing for the varsity squad as well.
Those young runners proved crucial to the Panthers’ finish, as Garrett Pruyser continued his rapid ascent late in the season, turning in a top-20 finish for the team.
Meanwhile, RV coach Keith Pelton noted the push by the sixth and seventh runners may have been more important, as freshmen Devon Hale and sophomore Thunder Knoxsah both sprinted the final 800 yards and passed some Sabetha runners in that stretch to push Royal Valley up the team standings.
Having a week off before the league meet certainly seemed to help the Panthers, as it allowed Spoonhunter to turn in his best performance of the season and gave Knoxsah the chance to return from an earlier injury. Experience may have been an equally important factor in Pelton’s eyes, though.
Runners like Garrett Hicks, who joined Spoonhunter in the top 10 and on the All-League team, have gained confidence through each race and in his case in particular, Pelton said it is very much benefitting the team.
“Having that experience with those younger guys really helped,” Pelton said. “Garrett’s really been coming on. He’s kind of the mouthpiece of our team. He’s not shy about saying things.”
With Spoonhunter as the silent leader and Hicks taking a more vocal role, it seems the Panthers have quite a strong one-two punch (not to mention fellow All-Leaguer Ninahii Frisby finishing right behind Hicks).
That is not something the Royal Valley girls have been lacking, with Pelton pointing to the strong dynamic between Kaytlyn Gooderl and Katie Hanshaw pushing those two runners higher and higher throughout the season.
Pelton noted the two runners get along, but don’t like losing to each other. This week, Gooderl came out just ahead, but like last season both ended up earning All-League honors.
Kiikto Thomas joined them in that regard with a top-15 finish and Pelton is hoping seeing that trio succeed will help get Tamo Thomas back into gear, who returned to action in the JV race on Thursday.
Though the younger runners on the girls team have a ways to go, the coach can’t fault their effort. He applauded his runners for taking advantage of the course in Perry when they could, too, after getting a chance to scout it during their off-week.
While not as hilly as other courses, Pelton did note the prevalence of curves at Perry Park and, conversely, how important that made running on the other portions.
“We talked about really hitting those straightaways when there was a chance to get out there to shoot out and start using speed there,” Pelton said.
Strategy worked in the Panthers’ favor this week and the team got the performances it needed to turn in some top finishes, but Pelton noted that won’t make it any easier on Royal Valley moving forward.
Given the fact that the same teams the Panthers have been gunning for (and defeated Thursday) will be in the team’s regional, Pelton said his team will have to be prepared for even more of a challenge in postseason competition this weekend.
“Both teams kind of have a target on their back now. It’s a little different being the hunter than they hunted,” Pelton said. “Those two teams that we were having eyes one, they’re going to have eyes on us now. How are we going to respond to that? It’s not going to be easy to repeat this week.”
First, though, Royal Valley will get in one last tune-up at the Jackson Heights Invitational starting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. Class 3A regional competition for RVHS in Leonardville will then begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Injuries dampened the mood for Holton at the league meet and prevented the girls from competing as team on Thursday, but coach Darin Stous credited his runners for soldiering through the issue.
“I know we were a little down in numbers, but we did everything we could to run as well as we could,” Stous said.
Alexis Coverdale led the girls once again, taking 21st individually, and seems to be getting back to “race pace,” according to Stous, after a slow start to the season.
For the boys, Wyatt Marriott took charge at the meet in Perry and finished in the top 20, which Stous noted was a big accomplishment.
As young as the Wildcats are, Stous said the experience gained by the runners who did compete on Thursday would be very valuable moving forward and it was a good sign to see the majority of those runners improve on their times from the previous meet in Perry.
“They came in there with an open mind, knowing that they could do better than they had done previously,” Stous said.
Holton will now get ready to close out the regular season at the same Jackson Heights meet as Royal Valley before taking a small contingency to the Class 4A regional meet in Baldwin this Saturday. Full results from the league meet are listed below.
Big Seven League meet
Boys team results:
1. Royal Valley 56, 2. Sabetha 62, 3. Hiawatha 63, 4. Perry-Lecompton 94, 5. Jeff West 98, 6. Nemaha Central 153, 7. Holton 183
Boys individual results:
1. Lierz (Hiaw.) 17:46, 2. K. Cox (Sab.), 3. Houk (Hiaw.), 4. C. Hinton (Riv.), 5. T. Hinton (Riv.), 6. B. Cox (Sab.), 7. LeClair (PL), 8. K. Spoonhunter (RV) 19:29, 9. Campbell (Hiaw.), 10. Hicks (RV) 19:39
Other HHS results:
20. Marriott 20:21, 38. Weir 22:09, 45. VanDyke 22:47, 48. Smith 23:11, 49. Chanay 23:32
Other RVHS results:
11. Frisby 19:39, 18. Pruyser 20:13, 19. M. Spoonhunter 20:18, 21. Hale 20:28, 24. Knoxsah 20:43,
Other ACCHS results:
39. Perkins 22:14
Girls team results:
1. Hiawatha 32, 2. ACCHS 58, 3. Sabetha 69, 4. Royal Valley 72
Girls individual results:
1. E. Kettler (Hiaw.) 21:42, 2. Jamison (PL), 3. Scholz (ACCHS) 21:53, 4. Schuette (Sab.), 5. Meyer (Sab.), 6. Tucker (JW), 7. Shamburg (Hiaw.), 8. Davis (Hiaw.), 9. Bissell (ACCHS) 23:17, 10. Gooderl (RV) 23:35
Other HHS results:
21. Coverdale 25:33, 36. Peven (JV #7) 29:45
Other RVHS results:
12. Hanshaw 23:41, 14. Thomas 23:53, 29. Bowden 28:33, 32. T. Thomas (JV #6) 28:52, 33. Jimeno-Dominguez 28:55, 37, S. Moore 30:22, 43. K. Moore (JV #10) 31:53
Other ACCHS results:
16. Mac. Forbes 24:19, 19. Mad. Forbes 24:47, 23. Hamilton 25:41, 30. Hawk 28:44, 34. Fuller 29:11
JV boys individual results:
1. Wahweotten (RV) 20:46, 3. Broxterman (RV) 21:49, 5. McAlister (RV) 22:05, 8. Zbierski (RV) 22:27