A spectacular sweep
Graff, Chino each grab top prize at Tongie race
For Brittney Graff, it was the same story, different week.
For Joey Chino, winning a varsity cross country race was a whole new sensation.
Eudora's cross country team had to wait a few extra days after the Tonganoxie Invitational was postponed because of rain, but when the Cardinals finally put sole to trail, they made the most of the opportunity and swept the boys and girls varsity races.
"I was really pleased with both those kids," Eudora coach Paul Boone said. "They worked hard. (Graff, Chino and Cody Burns) were the kids that put the most miles in this summer."
The win marked the second in a row for Graff, who could be at the front end of a breakout the likes of which she enjoyed a season ago.
The Cardinal senior led Monday's Invitational from the opening gun. More than 100 runners broke from the starting line, but the defending Class 4A individual champion was already ahead by a few steps 100 yards into the race.
She slowly grew the lead over the next couple hundred yards, and by the time Graff neared the end of the first of the race's four kilometers, her nearest competition wasn't even choking on her dust -- it had already settled.
She finished the race in 15 minutes, 11 seconds, a healthy 1:19 ahead of her nearest competitor.
"She's been working really hard. She's never not been at a point where she's been working hard, but she's really pushed out to a different level," Boone said. "She continues to build that confidence and it's really about her and the course."
Chino and Graff each earned the same color of medal -- the first place ones actually came a size larger than the rest of the fields' -- but his might be displayed slightly more prominently.
The Eudora senior didn't mirror Graff's tactics and actually trailed with fellow Cardinal senior Cody Burns through the earliest stages of the five-kilometer course. Like Graff, he didn't wait to make his move, however.
Chino and Burns broke from the pack and were alone at the front of the race one kilometer in and the pair pushed the pace over the next two kilometers, pushing 20 and 30 yards in front of their pursuers and consistently switching up the duty of actually leading the race.
Chino eventually made the switch permanent, however, and pushed well into the lead with a little more than a kilometer remaining.
"He had some trouble with some injuries last year, but he's really just at the start of his improvement curve," Boone said of Chino. "Joey's a competitive kid. When it comes down to it, he's a very competitive kid and having Cody there has really helped him."
Chino finally crossed the finish line well ahead of any competition. Burns finished fifth in 18:04 and Tim DeArmond was 25th, finishing in 19:00.
Neither Graff nor Chino -- nor Burns or any other Cardinal, for that matter -- could have chosen a much better time to reel off their season's best performances. Both the guys and the girls will perform Saturday at the Rim Rock cross country course near Lawrence, then the teams return home Oct. 5 for the Eudora Invitational.
After that, it's the three-week gauntlet of league, regionals, and on Oct. 28 the state meet at the Wamego Country Club golf course.