Free State’s Venters takes Rim Rock title

Free State's girls varsity cross country team, center, takes off a the start of its 5K run at the Rim Rock Farm Classic cross country meet Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014.

Last year, Free State High sophomore Emily Venters won individual titles in the Sunflower League, at regionals and at the Class 6A state meet. All she was missing was a victory in Kansas University’s Rim Rock Classic at Rim Rock Farm.

She changed that on Saturday, pacing the entire field for a victory in the girls’ 5K race. Her first-place finish, along with junior Claire Sanner finishing fourth, helped Free State’s girls cross country team take second place in the team standings.

Venters, who took sixth in her race at the Rim Rock Classic last year, broke out to an early lead and never looked back.

“I kind of forgot about all the hills when I was racing, but I just pushed through it and just, like, fought the whole time,” Venters said. “I never let up. At first, I wasn’t going to go out — I didn’t want to be the leader. But I had to, and I felt it. Then I just kept pushing and was like, ‘I can’t let up now.'”

Venters, who missed last week due to a toe injury that she feared was a stress fracture, has won all three races she has entered this season.

“It was pretty exciting to win,” said Venters, who finished with a time of 18:44.9. “My goal is just to go out, run well, and have fun. If I win, it’s cool.”

The Firebirds also had strong contributions from Sanner, who ran in 19:03.4, sophomore Kiran Cordes (18th place), junior Liv Lyche (40th) and senior Marlee Yost-Wolff (50th).

Free State’s boys cross country team took ninth in the boys’ “Gold” 5K. Senior Ryan Liston led the team with a personal-best time of 16:20.3 in his 15th-place finish.

Senior Thomas Becker also set a personal record when he finished 38th with a time of 17:02.9. He topped his previous best time by just more than four seconds.

“It’s our home turf,” Becker said. “I’ve run out here nine times now. That really helps a lot. You get used to it. You feel like you’ve got to do well here.”

Juniors Ethan Donley and Tanner Hockenbury also had sub-18 minute times, as they finished 49th and 75th, respectively.

Lawrence High’s boys cross country team looked much improved from last week, finishing 28th in the “Crimson” 5K. Junior Nathan Pederson led the Lions with a time of 17:44.3 in 48th place.

“It wasn’t too bad. I just wish I could have done as well as I did last year at league,” Pederson said.

Lawrence’s girls team took 25th among 26 teams in the girls “Crimson” 4K, but senior Shelby Ward ran a personal-best time of 18:49.6 to top the Lions with her 115th-place finish.

“We did run better,” LHS coach Brian Anderson said. “They just seemed to feel better today. Their minds were into it better. I don’t know. We worked them hard this week, told them, ‘Yeah, you can do this.’ So they just stepped up.”