Season ends on ‘high note’
Graff, Van Anne bestowed with all-state honors at state meet
The Eudora cross country team completed a strong season with a historical trip to the 4A state cross country meet Saturday at Wamego. Brittney Graff and Tighe Van Anne each took home all-state honors, bestowed on the top-20 runners.
The girls team qualified for the state meet, finishing second at regionals Oct. 25 in Tonganoxie. It followed its silver medal performance with a solid eighth-place finish in Wamego.
Baldwin cruised to the state championship with 83 points. Colby followed with 112 and Hugoton with 130. The Cardinals posted 183 points, edging host Wamego, which finished with 187.
"We ended the season on a high note continuing to run fast," head coach Paul Boone said. "The state meet is a challenge. Not just because the competition is the best in the state, but the course starts on a hill."
Eudora started the day on that hill but finished it on a mountain top. On its way back from Wamego the team stopped at Buffalo Mound outside Topeka, the same place the team had stopped in 2001.
"It's a place where you can see forever," Boone said. "Everyone placed a rock at the top and made a commitment that next year we would bring medals and trophies to the top."
One of those young mountaineers was Graff, who earned her all-state honors finishing 20th with a time of 12 minutes, 37.96 seconds. It was the second fastest a Cardinal had ever run on the Wamego course.
Megan Ballock was just off all-state pace in 25th with a 12:49.23 -- third on the all-time Eudora list. Her improvement over her state appearance a year ago was staggering. In 2002 Ballock ran 13:26, finishing in 46th place. This year she improved by 37 seconds and 21 positions.Tori Tunget placed 89th with a 14:31.8, and Christina Pyle came in 98th at 16:26.
The team's 1-to-5 time gap was an impressive 1:54, just one second off the season's best at Wellsville Sept. 18.
With the exception of juggernaut Baldwin, Eudora was the toast of its region. Only two runners from the Cardinals' region ran faster than Graff, Ballock and Seats. Both of those runners were from the state champion Bulldogs.
In any sport, a coach looks for improvement over the course of a season, and the Cardinals state performance acted as a startling symbol of the improvement the team has made.
Eudora participated in the Wamego Invitational Sept. 13. The girls finished in ninth place out of a select 17 teams. At the state meet the team finished eighth against the highest caliber runners in Kansas.
Individually the Cards showed tremendous growth as well. Ballock improved her time by 13 seconds; Graff by 28 seconds; Sisson by 56 seconds; Tunget by 1:01; and Seats by 1:21.
Van Anne was the sole qualifier from the boys team. But he was joined nonetheless by supportive teammates Sean Wiard, Andy Schultz, Matt Morgan, Mason McCurdy, Cody Burns and Jared Reetz. Eudora alumnus Jill Abel was also in attendance.
They all witnessed Van Anne's sensational all-state run. He placed fourth out of 103 runners with a personal record 16:31.68. Van Anne matched the best finish ever by a Cardinal at the state meet (Eric Bloom, 1995). He and his record time was the fastest ever by a Cardinal on the Wamego course.
Van Anne improved upon his previous state appearance in 2001 by more than a minute. He also outran all runners from Eudora's regional.
"I just can't say enough about the way (Van Anne) ran and competed," Boone said. "I think his experience as a sophomore helped him prepare for how to run the race."
Baldwin took home the boys title with 52 points. Wamego and Buhler followed with 87 points and 124 points, respectively.
Cara Seats yet again superceded expectations, tying a personal record posting a 12:52. She placed 28th overall and sixth on the Eudora course list with the performance. By season's end Seats had become the critical third runner that allowed Eudora to legitimately compete at the highest state level.
Regan Sisson finished 62nd with her 13:33.46.
"We would have had difficulty even making it to state if (Sisson) hadn't flown back from China and raced the next day," Boone said.