Lawrence High cross country coach Brian Anderson planned to have his team race together at the front of the pack for the beginning of Saturday's Sunflower League meet at Rim Rock Farm.
Both his girls and boys teams did that, leading to a second-place team finish for the girls and a fourth-place finish for the boys.
Kelly Renfro used her teammates as motivation to run faster and finished third. Teammate Alissa Freeman finished sixth.
"Alissa was right behind me, which was great," Renfro said. "When they are running with me, it pushes me to go faster."
Dylan Hedges finished fourth for the boys squad. Anderson had his boys team run quickly at the beginning of the race to ensure that other members of the team would finish high.
"He had an early good start, and I think that helped them all a lot so they were able to get in the front pack at the first-mile mark," Anderson said.
LHS, with Hedges, had three runners in the top 20 of the 12-team meet.
"Our top guys really stuck together, which is good," Hedges said. "That really helps because we are always pushing each other with our team and other teams."
Anderson said both teams should feel good going into regionals next weekend.
The Free State High team finished fifth on the boys side and eighth on the girls side. Coach Steve Heffernan said he knew the girls team would not finish high because he was missing his second-best runner, Morgan Flannigan. Kyra Kilwein paced the Firebirds, finishing 10th.
"I think Kyra looked really good today," Heffernan said. "She struggled a little bit at the end again, but it looked like almost a complete race for her."
Junior Jeanie Reams finished 19th for the Firebirds.
Five Firebird runners finished in the top 35 on the boys side. Gabe Moss led the way at 13th.
"That was the best kick I have had in a while," Moss said. "It still wasn't a complete race, but I feel the team ran really well."
Heffernan said his boys were peaking at the right time and thought they would finish well at next week's regional race in Manhattan. Heffernan said his team finished with times that it set as goals before the season began.
"This is just to judge where we are at compared to other teams who we will see in the bigger races," Moss said. "We are running good. I am excited. We should finish really well."