Graff is golden at Missouri event
The Eudora boys and girls cross country teams definitely made their presence felt in what was one of the largest races they have ever run.
Boasting hundreds of runners from 50 schools from the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, the Missouri Stampede in Joplin, Mo., included defending state champions Blue Springs High School from Missouri and Tulsa Union High School from Oklahoma.
Leave it to senior Brittney Graff to find a way to win.
In the five-kilometer Large Class girls' race, Graff immediately strode out into the front of the pack, surrounded by girls from Emporia and Olathe East. At the two-mile mark, Graff sprinted ahead, leaving a large and comfortable gap between her and the other runners. Finally, Graff crossed the finish line in 18 minutes, 31 seconds, followed closely by Michaela Reynolds of Emporia.
Coach Paul Boone said regardless of all the question marks the unfamiliar competition and course presented, Graff maintained a single goal and that allowed her to win the race.
"Brittney had the opportunity to compete against some top runners from Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas," Boone said. "She went out and did that. This was a big confidence boost for her because of how many unknowns she had to face."
Boone said the course was brand new and allowed Graff to capitalize on her skill, especially around the hair-pin switchbacks that comprise the last mile of the course.
"In every course you come up with a tactic before you run," Boone said. "We viewed that it's very important that you get a good start because things tighten up pretty quickly. When we got to the last mile, she used those curves and maximized her ability to throw in some surges."
Graff wasn't the only person to perform well, either. Cody Burns ran his best time all season at 17:19 and rounded up the top 50 boys. Joey Chino followed closely behind, finishing in 17:29.
Boone said he was very pleased with the two teams, but there were several external factors that really made the course difficult.
"They had to deal with the pressure of running against 400 girls and 500 boys," Boone said. "Also, it hadn't rained there since July 27, so it was dusty, windy and hot. Although it was somewhat difficult, our kids enjoyed it."
But Boone said the most valuable aspect of the race was not the race itself, but the team members building camaraderie with each other and coming together as a unit. He said it allowed each of the kids to get to know each other and the coaches on a different level and offered a relaxing atmosphere away from home for a weekend.
In all, Boone said although the teams did not place, he was very proud of each of the members' achievements both individually and as a team.
"We just like being together, whether it's on campus or at the trails," Boone said. "But the upperclassmen definitely set the tone that we're here to work but also have fun while we are doing it."