BAYARD — Mitchell cross country coach Mike Harriger didn’t have to say much this week to get his runners pumped up for the Western Trails Conference meet on Friday.
After winning the last two conference titles, the Tigers were eager to make it three in a row.
They did just that on a cold, snowy day in Bayard, putting a whopping six runners in the top 10 as Mitchell defended its championship once again. The Tigers finished the race with 19 points, well ahead of Kimball, which took second place with 44 points. Bridgeport grabbed third place with 45 points.
“They’ve been talking about [winning the WTC meet again] all week,” Harriger said. “They really wanted to get a third title in a row. I thought they did a great job. They posted some really good times.”
Not even poor weather conditions could prevent the Tigers from enjoying a season-best team performance.
“I just told them that it’s going to take some guts and courage, and they really stepped up today,” he said. “I was really happy with how they went out there and competed.”
Tate Harvey led Mitchell, placing third with a time of 17 minutes, 22 seconds. The Tigers’ Levi Avila was fourth in 18:07, and Edward Grentz was fifth in 18:15.
Also for Mitchell, Jeremy Carrizales was seventh in 18:24; Luis Panduro was eighth in 18:41; and Chase Watson was ninth in 18:42. Nate Jenkins came in 11th in 18:52.
Harriger said his team’s performance came at a great time since the district meet is Thursday at Ogallala.
“It was a huge confidence booster,” he said. “They’ve really got their sights set on [running well] next week at the district meet, and they think they’ve got a shot. I’ve been telling them all along that they do, but I think after today they realize that they do have a shot.”
Harriger said he’s impressed with the progress his runners have been making all season.
“Everything is kind of coming together,” he said. “They’re progressively getting their times down, and today they were a little bit lower. Hopefully, next week at districts we’ll be able to get them down even more.”
While Mitchell took the top team honor Friday, the top individual performance came from Bridgeport’s Cody Franklin, who finished with a time of 16:34. Gordon-Rushville’s Gary Kaplan was second in 16:52.
Also cracking the top 10 were Kimball’s Ryan Muneio, who was sixth in 18:23, and Mitchell Shield, who was 10th in 18:48.
In the girls race, Gordon-Rushville held off a stiff challenge from Kimball to win the title, 22-27. Bridgeport was third with 30 points.
Gordon-Rushville’s Dani Wellnitz led the Mustangs with a first-place finish in 17:47. Also for Gordon-Rushville, Rachel Johnson was fifth in 20:04, and Taryn American Horse was 10th in 20:42.
For Kimball, Laura Flores was third in 18:45; Kailey Dickerson was sixth in 20:20; and Hailey Keller was ninth in 20:37.
Bridgeport had two top-10 finishers: Marissa Widener was fourth in 19:45, and Courtney Beyer was eighth in 20:26.
Also placing in the top 10 were Bayard’s Montana Belford, who was second in 18:10, and Keelie Hansen, who was seventh in 20:23.
Boys Team Scoring
Mitchell 19, Kimball 44, Bridgeport 45, Gordon-Rushville 59, Hemingford 80.
Girls Team Scoring
Gordon-Rushville 22, Kimball 27, Bridgeport 30.