Girls ready to rule the cross country course
The Eudora Cardinals cross country team completed one of the program's finest seasons last November with a trip to the 4A state cross country meet. Now-graduated Tighe Van Anne was one of two Cardinals to bring home all-state honors. The other, then-freshman Brittney Graff, led the young guns on the girls team to a strong eighth-place finish.
It was the culmination of a momentum-driven year. Eudora began the season young, inexperienced and unproven, returning just four letter winners.
But by the end of the 2003 campaign, then-sophomores Megan Ballock and Cara Seats were second-team all-league, and Van Anne was first-team all-league and an all-state runner. And the freshman phenom Graff broke two school records, finished first-team all-league, and received coveted all-state honors.
The girls return the core of last season's breakout team. Junior Regan Sisson, last year's No. 4 runner, provides the sole vacancy among the Cardinals' top-seven.
But Ballock and Graff are back.
Ballock picked up right where she left off as a sophomore last year. 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 silver at the Frontier League and a bronze at Tonganoxie.
Ballock and Graff will return as the team leaders, a role they've already embraced, coach Paul Boone said.
"Our girls and guys teams are developing good chemistry," Boone said. "We've had some great leadership from our top two runners.
"Our team is working well together, led by Brittney and Megan. They are pushing each other and have big plans for this team."
Seats will look to once again provide a strong No. 3 runner. Seats was last season's most improved runner and gave the Cards a balance at the top that rivaled most in the region.
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 eighth-place finish at state.
Junior Tori Tunget is looking to be this year's Seats, rising out of nowhere to help establish the team as a state contender.
Sophomore Christina Pyle is still young but has a tremendous group ahead of her from which to learn. And freshmen newcomers Katelyn Reese and Lauren Colman have the unenviable task of following the consecutive record-breaking freshmen seasons of Ballock and Graff.
"Our freshmen have had super attitudes and are blending in well with our veterans," Boone said.
"Joanna Rahmqvist, senior exchange student from Sweden, is adjusting well to Kansas. She's an orienteering expert, and we are trying to run in the forests of eastern Kansas as much as possible to keep her feeling at home."
The girls are young and loaded and legitimately could threaten the state's top teams, including arch rival and state champion Baldwin. They were closer than most realized last year.
With the exception of juggernaut Baldwin, Eudora was the most impressive group in its region. Only two runners from the Cardinals' region ran faster than Graff, Ballock and Seats at state. Both of those runners were from the champion Bulldogs.
The magical season the girls enjoyed last year was not mirrored by the boys, a gold medal at Wellsville and the individual success of Van Anne the sole exceptions.
And the most glaring void of this season's squad is found on the boys team in the absence of Van Anne. He carried the young, inexperienced and injury-plagued boys squad.
Boone hoped the growing pains the boys suffered through last year paid off this year.
"Success is largely dependent on the development of our three-through-six runners," Boone said. "Someone is going to have to step up and claim those spots in order for us to be as successful as we would like."
The squad's sole senior is Paul McCleery, who appears stronger two years removed from surgery.
Junior Andy Schultz provided a rare bright spot from a year ago. He and fellow junior Sean Wiard should provide some solid experience.
Sophomore Cody Burns has looked good early in practice following a strong summer workout.
Another sophomore, Tim DeArmond, has leadership qualities that will be relied upon with another young team.
Sophomore Jared Reetz, like Schultz, looked strong during the summer.
Two more sophomores --Kent Abel and Mason McCurdy -- aim at solidifying the team's depth. McCurdy is coming off a knee injury.
The Eudora cross country schedule begins Sept. 2 at Garnett.