Firebirds’ Liston strong at finish

Free State senior Ryan Liston (257) holds off Olathe East junior Nicholas Skinner as Skinner tries to push his way past at the finish line during the boys varsity race at the Baldwin Invitational Saturday morning in Baldwin City. Liston placed first over Skinner by .05 seconds.

? After 10 minutes in a cross country race at the Baldwin Invitational on Saturday morning, Free State High senior Ryan Liston was in third place but trailed the top two runners by several seconds and several meters.

During the next six minutes, Liston started running down his competition in the final loop around trees, as he bounced in front of Olathe East’s Nicholas Skinner before he fell back behind, then sprinted in front again.

In the final stretch, Liston led by two steps before Skinner tried to make a move in the final 25 yards. Liston did his best to stay in front and even extended his elbows a little, as Skinner tried to push through on his left.

Then in the final steps before the finish line, both Liston and Skinner stuck their chests out in a photo finish. Liston had no idea who won the race until his father told him the results about 10 minutes later.

Liston won the 5K by .005 seconds, with a winning time of 16:38.855.

His narrow victory helped Free State’s boys cross country team take second place, its highest finish of the season. FSHS junior Claire Sanner also won the girls race, leading the Firebirds’ girls cross country team to its own second-place finish, even without sophomore Emily Venters, who didn’t run.

“I wanted that really badly,” said Liston, as he beat Skinner, a friend from racing throughout the years. “Usually I don’t (stick my elbows out), no, but I think Nick knows it’s all about the racing thing.”

Sanner took an early lead in the girls race, and continued to pace the competition with a winning time of 15:05.19. It was her first win of the season after top-five finishes in the first two meets of the year.

“I’m pleased with the finish,” Sanner said. “It was a little slower than last year, but you have to consider the conditions and everything.”

Both of Lawrence High’s cross country teams finished eighth. The girls were led by Riley Shook, who finished 49th with a time of 18:39.40, while Nathan Pederson had the best time for the boys, taking 22nd place with a time of 17:48.61.

Both teams will run in the Kansas University Invitational at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Rim Rock Farm.