Eudora team capitalizes on talent of young but successful runners
The Eudora Cardinals cross country team completed one of the program's finest seasons Nov. 1 at the state cross country meet in Wamego. It was the culmination of a momentum-driven year.
Eudora began the season young, inexperienced and unproven. They returned just four letter winners -- sophomores Megan Ballock, Cara Seats and Sean Wiard and senior Tighe Van Anne.
Ballock was a state qualifier as a freshman. But Seats and Wiard had yet to separate themselves as top runners, and Van Anne hadn't competed since his sophomore year.
Head coach Paul Boone faced a sizable challenge. He was forced to rely on an influx of freshman talent. It was imperative that his veterans prove reliable and that one or more of the newcomers standout the way Ballock had the year before.
Boone wasn't disappointed.
By the end of the 2003 campaign, Ballock and Seats were second-team all-league, and Van Anne was first-team all-league and an all-state runner.
And then there was that newcomer standout -- freshman Brittney Graff, who broke two school records, finished first-team all-league, and received the coveted all-state honors.
The combination of Ballock, Graff and Seats was enough to carry the girls team to silver medals at the league and regional meets and all the way to the state meet where they finished eighth.
The season didn't follow the same storybook script for the Eudora boys. But they were able to take pride in a gold medal at Wellsville and in the individual success of Van Anne.
The efforts of the squads were acknowledged Monday at the team's annual awards ceremony. Fifteen members of the team earned letters on the night.
Six freshmen lettered. Graff and Christina Pyle from the girls team and Kent Abel, Cody Burns, Tim De Armond and Mason McCurdy from the boys team.
Sophomores Ballock, Seats and Wiard lettered again. Four other sophomores earned their first -- Regan Sisson and Tori Tunget on the girls side and Matt Morgan and Andy Schultz on the boys side.
And of course, Van Anne, the Cardinals only upperclassman, earned his second cross country letter.
Freshman Jared Reetz and sophomore Jon Snyder were both honored with provisional letters.
Four awards were handed out as well.
The Most Improved Runner Award winners were Seats and Schultz.
Seats may have been the most deserving winner in the history of the award.
"(Seats) really came on down the stretch," Boone said. "She progressively improved throughout the season."
Schultz improved his time in each of Eudora's final five meets.
The Most Inspirational Runner Awards went to Ballock and Sisson. "(Ballock) is a great leader in the off season and during the season," Boone said. "She is a team runner...encouraging others and always leading in practice."
Sisson's dedication to training and her teammates defines the word inspiration. She returned from a trip to China just hours before posting a personal record time and helping her team qualify for the state meet.
Morgan and Pyle earned the Perseverance Awards.
"(Perseverance) is the ability to stick with it even when you don't receive the awards," Boone said. "It's easier to be the number one or two runners and get the press. But their teammates have the same workouts...they just keep plugging away."
And the Most Valuable Runner was awarded to Van Anne on the boys side. Ballock and Graff shared the award on the girls side.
Van Anne accumulated seven top-five finishes, including a gold medal at the Wellsville Invitational and fourth-place finishes at regionals and state. Van Anne also now holds school records at Wamego, Rim Rock and Tonganoxie.
Van Anne began the season on the same Wamego course that he finished. In his first race since his sophomore season, he posted a time of 19 minutes, 35 seconds and finished 87th. But in the final race of the season and his career, Van Anne ran a 16:31.68 and finished fourth in the state.
Ballock picked up right where she left off as a freshman. She set a course record winning gold at the Wellsville Invitational. Ballock finished eighth at the league meet, fifth at regionals and 25th at state.
Graff won gold at the Gardner Invitational and silver at the Anderson County, Eudora and Wellsville invitationals. She added another silver at the Frontier League and a bronze at Tonganoxie.