It seemed too late.
Halstead’s Steven Cline had begun to pull away 100 yards away from the Class 3A cross country championship, and Collegiate freshman Lakelin Conrad was afraid he had badly mistimed his kick.
“I tried to allude to the time where he beat me and I remembered how it felt to get so close and not pull it out,” Conrad said. “I wanted to pull it out pretty bad this time.”
Conrad summoned a burst from somewhere deep within and began to surge. Cline felt the ambush and attempted to sway his body in front of Conrad to make a pass near impossible.
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Conrad accomplished the near impossible, making up five steps in the final 40 yards, leaning forward while Cline collapsed at the finish line. Conrad had done it, winning the 3A title as a freshman at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence on Friday morning by a tenth of a second in 16 minutes, 50.70 seconds.
A freshman has not won a boys state title in any class in so long that even going back through results 15 years did not yield an answer.
“He’s just an amazing athlete,” Collegiate coach Don Funke said. “It’s his determination, it’s his drive. That’s all internal stuff. You can’t teach that.”
The official winner was in question for nearly 15 minutes after the race’s conclusion. Some thought Cline, who had led for the majority of the race, had fallen across the finish line just in time.
A still picture from the finish line camera had to be used to determine Conrad had won by a tenth.
Conrad still thinks he waited too late to make his push, but it’s hard to argue with the end result.
“It wasn’t stressful, but it was close to it,” Conrad said. “I just kept telling myself to pump my arms. It felt like I did win it. I felt like I crossed right before him, but it was hard for me to wait.”
While Cline was inches from individual success, a state title did not elude him. Halstead, with five sophomores and two freshmen, won the team championship with a score of 61 points — exactly 50 points better than second place.
“The key for us was really running well in a pack,” Halstead coach Curtis Vermillion said. “We stressed that all year and I think we had some quality depth and that helped us out (Friday).”
Faflick lends helping hand — King’s Bridge signals the end of the race is near and East’s Nate Faflick was on pace for what could have been a respectable time and finish in the Class 6A boys race.
But when he emerged from the bridge, he saw Lawrence Free State senior Curtis Zicker laying on the ground with runners passing by.
“My instincts just took over,” Faflick said. “Before I knew it, I was bent over and trying to pick him up.”
Zicker had been suffering from flu-like symptoms and had collapsed during the race. After several attempts to help him to his feet, Faflick finally was able to stabilize Zicker and help him close out the race.
Faflick said that he was not friends with Zicker, but did recognize him from previous competitions.
“Before each race I pray that my racing could reflect God and his love,” Faflick said. “We are called to love even our opponents and seeing another runner down on the ground with only 800 meters left in what could have been their very last cross country race, I have no regrets helping him.”
Wilson breakthrough — Kapaun Mount Carmel junior Matt Wilson has always been a good runner, but Friday, he proved he’s even better.
Wilson bypassed his own expectations and finished fourth in the boys 5A race, shaving off 25 seconds from his best at Rim Rock with his time of 16:24.
“It’s going to be hard to match this performance, so it kind of puts some pressure on me,” Wilson said. “I’m going to have to train a lot harder now to keep this up.”
Notes — St. Thomas Aquinas won its first Class 5A title since 2008. Along with the girls title, it was the third time Aquinas has swept 5A...In turn, it ended the Carroll boys’ quest for five straight titles, as the Eagles had to settle for a third-place finish...Jackson Schroeder (15:48) gave Manhattan the individual champion, but Blue Valley was too deep to conquer for the Class 6A team championship...After dropping down to 5A, Blue Valley West’s Stuart McNutt (15:24) capitalized by winning individual honors in the 5A race.
Area boys all-state — North senior Ricardo Banuelos (11th, 16:37) was the top finisher from the area in 6A, followed by Campus senior Paul Johnson (16:39) in 12th, Campus junior Aaron Lindsay (16:41) in 15th, and South senior Tony Matsui-Yandell (16:41) in 19th. In 5A, Carroll’s Paul Becker (16:33) was eighth, Maize South’s Hunter Thissen (16:34) and Ethan Kossover (16:34) were ninth and 10th, respectively, Newton’s Roebrt Loeffler (16:39) was 14th, and Carroll’s Hunter Nance (16:42) was 18th. In 3A, Belle Plaine’s Tyler Balsters (16:58) returned from injury to take third, Remington’s John Brunner (17:26) was fourth, Collegiate’s Mark Meyer (17:33) was sixth, Hesston’s Austin Bollinger (17:35) was eighth, Halstead’s Patrick Porch (17:42) was 12th, and Hesston’s Javen Schmucker (17:59) was 19th.
Teams—1. Blue Valley 53; 2. Garden City 84; 3. Manhattan 101; 4. Lawrence Free State 139; 5. Shawnee Mission East 140; 6. Olathe North 159; 7. Blue Valley North 169; 8. Campus 176; 9. Shawnee Mission North 180; 10. Junction City 190; 11. Washburn Rural 225; 12. Wichita West 290.
Individuals—1. Schroeder, Manhattan, 15:48.50; 2. Melgares, Manhattan, 15:52.50; 3. Gorthy, Blue Valley, 15:52.60; 4. Wiederholt, Blue Valley, 16:21.00; 5. Skinner, O. East, 16:23.10; 6. Donley, Free State, 16:23.40; 7. Carmona, Garden City, 16:29.70; 8. Arnspiger, SM East, 16:32.60; 9. Chaparro, Garden City, 16:35.50; 10. Berger, Blue Valley, 16:36.60; 11. Banuelos, W. North, 16:37.20; 12. Johnson, Campus, 16:39.20; 13. Gonzalez, BV North, 16:40.00; 14. Cruz, Dodge City, 16:40.70; 15. Lindsay, Campus, 16:41.20; 16. Deveau, Junction City, 16:41.50; 17. Hockenbury, Free State, 16:41.60; 18. Tula, Garden City, 16:41.80; 19. Matsui-Yandell, W. South, 16:41.90; 20. Elliott, BV North, 16:42.60.
Teams—1. St. Thomas Aquinas 58; 2. Blue Valley West 81; 3. Bishop Carroll 107; 4. Blue Valley Southwest 115; 5. Maize South 132; 6. Andover 174; 7. Leavenworth 182; 8. Newton 189; 9. Liberal 222; 10. Topeka Seaman 240; 11. Kapaun Mount Carmel 243; 12. Shawnee Heights 295.
Individuals—1. McNutt, BV West, 15:24.50; 2. Bost, BV West, 16:13.00; 3. Irish, Salina South, 16:20.50; 4. Wilson, Kapaun, 16:24.20; 5. Petracek, Aquinas, 16:27.00; 6. Constant, BV Southwest, 16:28.10; 7. Depenbusch, Great Bend, 16:30.50; 8. Becker, Carroll, 16:33.00; 9. Thissen, Maize South, 16:34.50; 10. Kossover, Maize South, 16:34.90; 11. Cole, Aquinas, 16:36.40; 12. Podlena, Seaman, 16:37.20; 13. Grasing, Aquinas, 16:37.60; 14. Loeffler, Newton, 16:39.10; 15. Meeks, Mill Valley, 16:39.50; 16. Eastham, BV Southwest, 16:40.30; 17. Gill, Aquinas, 16:41.50; 18. Nance, Carroll, 16:42.20; 19. Hyde, Leavenworth, 16:43.30; 20. Reed, Salina South, 16:43.80.
Teams—1. Halstead 61; 2. Pleasant Ridge 101; 3. Chaparral 103; 4. Wichita Collegiate 112; 5. Scott City 115; 6. Council Grove 177; 7. Sabetha 185; 8. Humboldt 195; 9. Riley County 196; 10. Beloit 219; 11. Burlington 269; 12. Minneapolis 277.
Individuals—1. Conrad, W. Collegiate, 16:50.70; 2. Cline, Halstead, 16:50.80; 3. Balsters, Belle Plaine, 16:58.70; 4. Brunner, Remington, 17:26.80; 5. Houk, Hiawatha, 17:27.70; 6. Meyer, W. Collegiate, 17:33.20; 7. Smith, Marysville, 17:35.60; 8. Bollinger, Hesston, 17:35.80; 9. Oatney, Pleasant Ridge, 17:36.10; 10. Smith, Cherokee-Southeast, 17:39.80; 11. Patterson, Norton, 17:40.90; 12. Porch, Halstead, 17:42.70; 13. Ponce, Southwestern Heights, 17:44.10; 14. Sperfslage, Nemaha Valley, 17:45.00; 15. Toms, Arma-Northeast, 17:50.90; 16. Patrick, Southeast of Saline, 17:52.50; 17. Ratzlaff, Phillipsburg, 17:55.80; 18. Cox, Sabetha, 17:57.40; 19. Schmucker, Hesston, 17:59.40; 20. Lierz, Nemeha Valley, 18:00.80.