FSHS boys cross-country claims Sunflower League title, Charlie Johnson earns individual victory

Free State senior Charlie Johnson crosses the finish line to earn an individual victory at the Sunflower League cross-country meet Saturday morning at Rim Rock Farm on Oct. 19, 2019.

Free State senior Charlie Johnson kicked it into high gear once he saw a teammate’s mother.

Susie Fagan, who is the mother of senior Erin Fagan, cheered loudly for Johnson on a steep downhill slope Saturday morning at Rim Rock Farm. It was all the motivation that Johnson needed to run a time of 16:12.6 en route to a first-place finish in the varsity boys race at the Sunflower League cross-country meet.

“I saw her cheering at me, and she sold me these shoes,” Johnson said. “When you are a runner, the weirdest things go through your head. I was like, ‘I got to show her what these shoes can do.'”

Johnson became just the second FSHS boys runner to notch an individual league title, and first since Ryan Liston did so as a senior in 2014. His victory, along with a third-place finish from Ben Shryock and a seventh-place finish from Ethan Sharp, lifted the boys team to a team title.

Free State scored 65 points as a squad, which was 15 points better than runner-up Olathe South. It marks the second time that the FSHS boys have been Sunflower League champions, and first time since 2014.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Saturday’s showing is the fact Free State found a way to make history without one of its best runners. Sophomore Jack Keathley-Helms, who was the team’s No. 4 runner during a runner-up finish at the state meet last fall, has been sidelined with an injury.

The Firebirds expect to have Keathley-Helms back in the mix soon, but runners have had to step up in his absence.

“The mentality has been to catch every single person that you can to make up for that,” Johnson said. “I needed to make sure I could do everything I could to hold it together for the team.”

Johnson’s individual victory was a fitting way to go out in his final Sunflower League meet, especially considering that he was unable to compete in the race last year due to an injury. Johnson placed 14th as a sophomore in 2017.

Shryock ran a time of 16:30.2, which was good enough for third place on the individual leaderboard. He placed fifth in the Sunflower League meet as a freshman last fall. Sharp, a junior, posted a mark of 16:37.8 to place seventh for his first top-10 finish at league in his career.

Lawrence High’s Diana Messick (left) and Free State’s Erin Fagan compete in the Sunflower League cross-country meet Saturday morning at Rim Rock Farm on Oct. 19, 2019.

On the girls side, Free State senior Erin Fagan also finished in the top 10 to lead the way. Fagan finished 10th with a season-best time of 20:05.6 after placing 11th as an individual at the Sunflower League meet in 2018.

“It felt better than any of my other races,” Fagan said. “Since there was less competition, I had more room to move throughout the race and the temperature was perfect.”

As a team, the Firebirds placed fourth with a score of 122. Olathe West won the varsity girls race with a mark of 54 points. Allison Babbit (16th) was the only other Firebird to finish inside the top 20 on the individual leaderboard.

LHS individuals shine

Lawrence High senior Ruben Little Head showed significant improvement at this year’s league meet.

Entering Saturday, Little Head had not finished higher than 54th at the Sunflower League meet. Little Head came home with a top-10 finish, netting ninth with a time of 16:41.3 in the varsity boys race.

From the start, Little Head stayed with the front of the pack and made moves when he needed to.

“This is probably one of the best races that I have ever had,” Little Head said. “This time I stayed with the front pack, went out and had a good pace.”

Lawrence High senior Ruben Little Head raises his arms overs his head after the varsity boys race during the Sunflower League cross-country meet Saturday morning at Rim Rock Farm on Oct. 19, 2019.

LHS took 12th as a team with a score of 274. Sophomore Jack Ryan ended up in 34th place with a time of 17:26.6.

On the girls side, Lawrence took seventh with a score of 184. Sophomore Diana Messick led the way by claiming 13th with a time of 20:19.8. Freshman Lucy Hardy netted 20th with a mark of 20:40.0.

Senior Sophie DeWitt ran a time of 21:25.0 to end up in 44th place in her final Sunflower League meet.

“I think our team this year has been better than any other team that Lawrence High has had in a really long time,” DeWitt said. “I think we have real potential to make it as a team for state this year.”

Both programs will be back in action during the regional meet at Milford State Park next Saturday. The girls race is slated to begin at 10 a.m., while the boys race will start at 10:45 a.m.

Sunflower League meet

Saturday at Rim Rock Farm

Varsity girls

Team scores: 1. Olathe West 54; 2. Olathe North 58; 3. Olathe East 120; 4. Free State 122; 5. SM East 146; 6. SM South 162; 7. Lawrence 184; 8. Gardner Edgerton 186; 9. SM Northwest 212; 10. SM North 240; 11. Olathe South 251; 12. SM West 270.

FSHS results: 10. Erin Fagan, 20:05.6; 16. Allison Babbit, 20:24.0; 31. Janice Werth, 21:07.6; 34. Maddie Day, 21:11.7; 35. Emily Stone, 21:15.9; 40. Morgan Goeser, 21:19.8; 56. Ella McCleary, 21:51.3;

LHS results: 13. Diana Messick, 20:19.8; 20. Lucy Hardy, 20:40.0; 44. Sophie DeWitt, 21:25.0; 50. Madison DeWitt, 21:32.7; 70. Grace Harader-Ellett, 22:32.0; 71. Eva Ackley, 21:35.7; 80. Maiki Martinez, 23:04.3; 84. Jayden Wilson, 23:35.3; 86. Natalie Kennedy, 23:46.0; 89. Jocelyn Wilson, 24:27.1.

Varsity boys

Team scores: 1. Free State 65; 2. Olathe South 80, 3. SM East 110; 4. Olathe North 133; 5. Olathe East 144; 6. Gardner Edgerton 147; 7. Olathe West 173; 8. SM Northwest 225; 10. SM South 244; 11. SM North 253; 12. Lawrence 274; 13. SM West 291.

FSHS results: 1. Charlie Johnson, 16:12.6; 3. Ben Shryock, 16:30.2; 7. Ethan Sharp, 16:37.8; 21. Brock Cordova, 16:59.0; 33. John Loos, 17:22.0; 71. Carson Marsh, 18:28.8; 76. Koby Owen, 18:33.4.

LHS results: 9. Ruben Little Head, 16:41.3; 34. Jack Ryan, 17:26.6; 80. Eli Marburger, 18:37.4; 89. Jack Pfeifer, 19:12.2; 90. Reese White Lightning, 19:14.1; 96. Lucas Holmberg, 19:32.0; 97. Connor Bewley, 19:35.8; 98. Keat Prescott, 19:40.0; 99. Julian Christensen, 19:40.2.

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