The Scottsbluff boys knew they would face a big challenge Saturday going up against Class A No. 1-rated Kearney in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference cross country meet.
Making the challenge even greater for the Bearcats were the cold, snowy conditions at the Scotts Bluff Country Club.
But even though Scottsbluff came up short in its bid to defeat the high-powered Kearney runners, Scottsbluff’s performance was still an impressive one.
Scottsbluff, which is ranked No. 1 in Class B, placed four runners in the top 11 and made Kearney work extremely hard for its 40-30 victory.
“I thought our varsity boys ran the very best race of our season,” Scottsbluff coach Jim Barker said. “I’m so excited for them. They raced. They got out of their comfort zone and competed. We laid it on the line. Kearney is an awesome team — congratulations to them. It was a 10-point difference, but it doesn’t matter. We raced. We got the job done.”
More than anything, Scottsbluff went into the meet looking to gain even more confidence and momentum for the final two weeks of the season. The Bearcats appeared to do just that, as most of their runners recorded stellar times despite the poor course conditions.
Matthew Barraza led Scottsbluff with a runner-up finish in 16 minutes, 9 seconds. Anthony Parra placed fifth in 16:27, Brendan Taedter was ninth in 16:48, and Ben Willis-Teff took 11th in 16:58.
“We had four guys in the 16s, and that’s huge on this course,” Barker said. “It’s a hard course to break 17. I just think it shows the depth we have.”
Three other Bearcats cracked the top 20. Tayler James finished 13th in 17:09, Nathan Pritchard was 18th in 17:32, and Shane Burkey was 20th in 17:34.
Barker liked the determination his runners showed.
“They were racing, not holding back. They were aggressive,” Barker said. “It was just a great sign. It was an indicator of their character and that they are willing to do this for one another.”
It was also a sign that Scottsbluff is looking to finish the season strongly. The Bearcats, the two-time defending Class B state champions, will be looking to step up even more Thursday when they compete in the District 4 meet at West Winds Golf Course in Ogallala. The top three teams qualify for the state meet Friday, Oct. 19, at the Kearney Country Club in Kearney.
“I thought we had a very successful day [Saturday] to set us up well for districts and state,” Barker said.
Kearney, meanwhile, also had to like what it did in the conference meet. Kearney placed five runners in the top 10, including two in the top four. Timothy Smith placed third in 16:13, and Dillon Graf came in fourth in 16:26. Davis Behle was sixth in 16:32, Keaton Lewis was seventh in 16:36, and Casey Berg was 10th in 16:49.
The top individual performance came from North Platte’s Wyatt McGuire, who won with a time of 16:01 — 8 seconds faster than the next-highest finisher, Barraza.
In the girls’ race, Scottsbluff had just one competitor, Taylor Muncie, and she came up big against some stiff competition. The sophomore registered a sixth-place finish with a time of 15:45.
“I thought Taylor ran phenomenal today,” Barker said. “She’s been a solid performer all season long. She’s just been great. She had a super summer. Every race this year she’s competed well. She’s a very gifted talent, and we’re excited to have her on our team.”
The Scottsbluff girls team, which was missing some runners Saturday who were either recovering from injuries or gone for another school-related activity, will look to have a solid showing at districts next week.
“We’re planning to have our best team race next Thursday,” Barker said.
The Kearney girls ran away with the GNAC team championship, scoring 29 points. Columbus placed second with 85 points, and Lexington was third with 95.
Kearney was led by Megan Sughroue, who won the meet in 15:06. Delaney McFadden placed fourth in 15:40, and Jordyn Dahlke was fifth in 15:42. Mandy Sughroue added a ninth-place finish in 16:10.
Lexington had two top-10 finishers: Vanessa Ambriz was second in 15:15, and Odaliz Santoyo was eighth in 15:55.
McCook’s Molly Sughroue was third in 15:34, Hastings’ Marika Van Brocklin was seventh in 15:50, and Columbus’ Bailey Smith was 10th in 16:14.