Strong finish for runners at season’s end
It wasn't always easy this year for the young Eudora Cardinals cross country team, but coach Paul Boone and his squad battled through to a solid and successful season.
Eudora's boys finished their season with an eighth-place showing at regionals. The Cardinal girls fared better, finishing third at regionals and seventh at state.
"Every year our goal is to win league and to ultimately win state but definitely to do well at regionals and qualify for state," Boone said. "We always try to shoot high."
In their third-straight state meet appearance, the girls improved on last season's eighth-place finish.
In addition to their strong regional and state efforts, the Cardinals earned a third-place finish at league, second-place finishes at Anderson County and at home, and a meet championship at Gardner Edgerton.
"The girls had a really good season," Boone said. "We faced a lot of adversity, sickness and injuries. But they handled it well, and looking back, we took a lot of positives from that."
The girls were once again led by Brittney Graff. The sophomore finished sixth at state, earning all-state honors. She also earned silver at regionals, and in the Rim Rock Classic-Gold Division and gold at Gardner Edgerton, Tonganoxie and at home.
"She was our No. 1 runner all season and really had a strong season," Boone said. "We gave her bag No. 6 this year, and her lowest finish all season was sixth-place.
"She had a really strong season that vaulted her up to the next level of elite 4A runners."
Junior Megan Ballock had been a mainstay among the leaders since her arrival, but a bout with mononucleosis threatened to devastate her season. Ballock survived, however, finishing the year with third-team all-league honors.
"She really came back and salvaged her season," Boone said. "That's a testament to her off-season. She is a real team leader and really showed her toughness sticking it out.
"When you're injured, you don't know how you're going to come back and fit in the team. But she handled it really well -- didn't get down on the others or herself. She would admit she grew through this experience."
Cara Seats also managed third-team all-league honors for the Cardinals.
"Cara really came on at the end of the season," Boone said. "She really had to step up in Ballock's absence."
The only senior on the girls team, Johanna Rahmqvist, came by virtue of an exchange program with Sweden.
"She came over here on the second day of practice and went straight into two-a-days," Boone said. "She's just a consistent kid personality-wise in her approach and time-wise. She probably came away with the most miles of anyone.
"It was a blessing having her run with us. It gave us a different look and feel for what it was like."
In addition to Ballock's health issues, Eudora had to fight through the knee injuries of Tori Tunget and Christina Pyle.
Those injuries placed greater pressure and emphasis on the performance of the Cards' two freshmen -- Lauren Colman and Katelyn Reese.
"The two freshmen hung out together, encouraged each other, and were a lot of fun to have around," Boone said. "(Colman) really helped us get that third spot at regionals helping us qualify for state. They both really grew as the year went on."
The boys finished eighth at the league meet for the second-straight year. But it may have meant more this season following the graduation of state-qualifier Tighe Van Anne and the addition of three new teams to the Frontier League. Six of the seven teams finishing ahead of Eudora qualified for state.
"With the guys, the important thing was to deal with what we came in with," Boone said. "I mean, you improve throughout the season but what you do during the off-season is critical with what you can do during the season.
"We competed throughout the season and for the most part beat the teams we were supposed to beat. But to really move up we need to commit more time in the off-season."
Although the Cardinals failed to qualify for state, there were significant individual performances. Jared Reetz beat his personal best from last season in every meet this year. Tim DeArmond set a personal record and led Eudora in three meets. Cody Burns also posted a personal record, leading in five meets. Kent Abel set a personal record five times this season. Andy Schultz missed his best-ever time by just three seconds.
And the boys sole senior, Paul McCleery, posted a personal record.
"The big highlight for the boys team was finishing third at home," Boone said. "They ran really well in front of their home crowd. I'm really happy they were able to medal."
The next highlight for Eudora runners is 14 weeks away, with the beginning of track practice.