LHS, FSHS and Bishop Seabury take on new-look cross-country course at Haskell Invite

Free State boys cross country celebrates its team victory at the Haskell Invite on Saturday, Oct. 12.

The cross-country course at Haskell University may have been altered slightly, but that doesn’t mean any runners lost any familiarity.

“Honestly it just feels like I know what to expect, which — even if it’s not true — it makes me feel like I have an edge on the competition,” Free State senior Charlie Johnson said. “I’m pretty familiar with the twists and turns.”

“I actually always like this Haskell course,” Lawrence High senior Ruben LittleHead added. “Other than the other races with downhills and uphills, it was a lot flatter. It was quick.”

Free State, LHS and Bishop Seabury took on this new-look course Saturday morning at the Haskell Invitational, with Free State taking both the boys and girls team titles. Johnson also took the individual title on the boys side (16:28.74).

Johnson, LittleHead, Bishop Seabury senior Henry Nelson and Free State sophomore Ben Shryock all found themselves packed up in the boys varsity race near the front. And that group knows each other well, with Johnson and LittleHead having raced against each throughout their entire cross-country careers.

“That familiarity was really cool so we knew how to push each other, especially in the back part when often we fall off,” Johnson said. “It was nice to have people to push against.”

LittleHead, who finished third (16:51.82), also used the help of his teammate sophomore Jack Ryan (5th, 16:59.49) down the home stretch. Ryan told LittleHead to stick with him, which propelled LittleHead to pass both Ryan and Shryock for a top-3 finish.

“In my mind, (Shryock) was right there and (I thought) I can probably catch him,” LittleHead said. “So other than that, I just kind of sprinted out and sure enough, I end up catching him at the end.”

On the girls side, Free State again was in control, led by senior Erin Fagan (2nd, 20:18.22), sophomore Allison Babbit (4th, 20:37.96) and senior Maddie Day (7th, 21:20.70). However, Bishop Seabury freshman Oona Nelson made noise as the individual overall winner.

Oona, Henry’s younger sister, won the girls varsity race with a time of 19:51.97 in convincing fashion. While she hadn’t raced at Haskell before Saturday, cooler weather and having watched Henry and her teammates race at the course in the past helped significantly.

“I just kind of ran my own race and focused on my form and everything,” Oona said. “I thought the overall course was really pretty; I love Haskell’s course.”

And running alone is comfortable for Oona — something even she admits is unique — but it works for her and worked on Saturday.

“I feel like I run better when I’m alone in a race,” Oona said. “So I tried to get out in front. Then with the finish it’s just you and you’ve got to just tell yourself that you’ve got to leave it all out on the course, and regret nothing when you finish.”

The significance of winning a varsity race as a freshman also wasn’t lost on her, and Oona said it’s a testament to a successful season thus far.

“I’m happy with how I’ve done,” Oona said. “I just go out and try my best. It was a beautiful day to race, and everybody did a good job.”

Johnson also was proud of his individual win but always focuses more on team success, hoping Saturday can be a springboard to future success for the Firebirds.

“We just need to keep bringing that race intensity to each of our next meets because now we’re starting to go into our league, regionals and state (meets),” Johnson said. “The stakes start getting a bit higher as we go forward in the season, so it’s exciting to have some success here and hopefully that gives us some momentum going into the postseason.”

Boys Team Results

1. Free State 25

2. Olathe South 51

3. Lawrence 67

4. Shawnee Mission East 80

Boys Individual Results

Free State

1. Charlie Johnson (16:28.74)

4. Ben Shryock (16:52.91)

6. Ethan Sharp (17:06.31)

7. Brock Cordova (17:28.21)

11. John Loos (17:56.04)

17. Carson Marsh (18:38.99)

Lawrence High

3. Ruben LittleHead (16:51.82)

5. Jack Ryan (16:59.49)

20. Lucas Holmberg (18:53.77)

21. Eli Marburger (18:56.06)

23. Reese Whitelightning (19:13.59)

24. Jack Pfeifer (19:15.51)

26. Keat Prescott (19:41.85)

28. Julian Christensen (20:01.51)

30. Daylon Heck (20:07.74)

31. Will Leuschen (20:34.96)

32. Griffin Northrop (21:10.49)

Bishop Seabury

2. Henry Nelson (16:36.68)

25. Diego Klish (19:31.75)

33. Jason Meschke (23:41.73)

34. Jonah Kim (24:42.59)

Girls Team Results

1. Free State 31

2. Lawrence High 42

3. Shawnee Mission East 93

4. Olathe South 102

5. Bishop Seabury 108

Girls Individual Results

Free State

2. Erin Fagan (20:18.22)

4. Allison Babbit (20:37.96)

7. Maddie Day (21:20.70)

10. Janice Werth (21:28.34

12. Emily Stone (21:34.28)

13. Morgan Goeser (21:40.51)

14. Ella McCleary (21:45.91)

Lawrence High

3. Lucy Hardy (20:37.96)

5. Diana Messick (20:46.79)

6. Sophie DeWitt (21:15.01)

11. Maddie DeWitt (21:29.25)

21. Eva Ackley (22:42.58)

22. Grace Harader-Ellet (22:47.11)

23. Natalie Kennedy (22:47.21)

26. Jayden Wilson (23:33.30)

27. Jocelyn Wilson (23:42.92)

32. Evelyn Serbet (25:09.43)

36. Ashlynn Schwarz (30:34.38)

Bishop Seabury

1. Oona Nelson (19:51.97)

20. Sabrina Eicher (22:30.26)

33. Darby Harris (25:50.78)

35. Hannah Motsinger (26:54.82)

37. Valene McInerney (30:53.86)

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