cBY JIM MISUNAS
BARTON COUNTY —A perfect autumn afternoon was matched by Great Bend's picture of perfection — Mayra Ramirez.
Ramirez, the Panthers' cross country sensation, completed a perfect regular season (16:07.1) by capturing Thursday's Western Athletic Conference championship. She led a flawless one-two-three Panther finish by runner-up McKenna Esfeld (16:19.0) and third-place medalist Emilia Diaz (16:19.6) at the challenging Lake Barton course north of Great Bend.
"That was great. Our goal was a team goal to finish one, two, three. I was happy that we came through with it. We all tried our best," Ramirez said. "I was so happy when I saw them right behind me."
The Panthers kept with their game plan and paced themselves at the start. Panther Emma Loomis (17:05.7) placed 17th and Hannah Loomis (17:55.3) placed 28th.
''That was great running conditions today," Ramirez said. "We achieved our team goals today."
Ramirez improved her previous 4-kilometer time by 61 seconds in what is likely her final meet of the cross country season. Regionals are scheduled on Saturday and Ramirez does not compete on Saturday because of her religious beliefs.
Dodge City's girls (34 points) earned five of the top nine medals to beat Great Bend (48) for the WAC team championship in perfect calm conditions at 46 degrees.. The Lake Barton course twists and turns in heavily wooded areas providing runners with beautiful scenery.
"We really competed well on the girls' side and bettered our previous times on our home course," said Great Bend coach Lyles Lashley. "McKenna Esfeld and Emilia Diaz cut 1 minute, 45 seconds. Emma Loomis and Hannah Loomis cut more than two minutes from the first meet of the year."
The story was similar on the boys' side as Dodge City (33) edged a hard-running Great Bend team (38). Dodge City medalist Marquez (16:55.2) held off Panther Sage Cauley (17:01.1) for first place. Cauley kept pace with Marquez during the final half of the race, but was never able to seriously challenge the Dodge City runner.
"This is a fun course, but it's challenging because it's so tough with these hills. I feel like a ran a lot better today than our first time here. It was good running conditions, no wind and a lot cooler," Cauley said. "We ran a good race and stuck with our game plan."
Cauley said the Panthers' primary goal was to run an even pace. They challenge themselves to compete for their teammates.
"We wanted to work together as a team and run for places," Cauley said. "I ran a pretty good race today. I ran what coach Lashley wanted me to.
Great Bend's Collin Hammond (17:06.3) placed fourth, Josh Tomlin (17:18.7) earned eighth, Ryan Nicholson (17:27.1) finished 11th and Alex Smith (17:35.1) finished 13th.
"Hats off to Dodge City," Lashley said. "It was a great race, but Dodge City beat us on our home course. We competed really well today on the boys side. Our four-five-six guys all performed really hard today."
BOYS TEAM SCORES
1—Dodge City, 33 (1—Marquez 16:55.2; 3—Valderde, 17:01.4; 5—Love, 17:10.6; 9—Weller, 17:20.3; 15—Rojas, 17:36.0)
2—Great Bend, 38 (2—Sage Cauley, 17:01.1; 4—Collin Hammond, 17:06.3; 8—Josh Tomlin, 17:18.7; 11—Ryan Nicholson, 17:27.1; 13--Alex Smith, 17:35.1; 14--Evan Hammond, 17:35.3; 33--Fritzgerald Alexis, 19:04.7; 36-Justin Owen, 19:47.6
3—Garden City, 76 (6—Bustillos, 17:14.2; 10—Fisher, 17:23.5; 18—Contreras, 17:59.7; 20—Hess, 18:12.6; 23—Hoff, 18:26.8)
4—Liberal, 78 (7—Carrillo, 17:14.3; 12—Perez, 17:29.5; 17—Lopez, 17:52.8; 19—Borunda, 18:08.3; 24—Barbosa, 18:31.7)
5--Hays High, 145 (Brungardt, 18:34.9; 31—Hines, 19:00.6; 32—Cunningham, 19:03.2; 37—Erbert, 19:58.6; 38-—Isbell, 20:08.8)
GIRLS TEAM SCORES
1—Dodge City, 34 (4—Orozco, 16:30.1; 6—Hensley, 16:40.8; 7—Williams, 16:42.6; 8—Dominguez, 16:44.5; 9—Larson, 16:44.8)
2—Great Bend, 48 (1—Mayra Ramirez 16:07.1; 2—McKenna Esfeld, 16:19.0; 3—Emilia Diaz, 16:19.6; 17—Emma Loomis, 17:05.7; 28—Hannah Loomis, 17:55.3; 41—Trinh Anh-Nhi, 19:27.5; 43—Amy To, 20:15.8; 44—Larissa Diaz, 23:45.0)
3—Hays High, 73 (5—Shubert, 16:36.5; 16—Dotts, 17:04.3; 19—Shippy, 17:12.3; 22—Rodriguez, 17:22.5; 25—Hardman, 17:41.7)
4—Garden City, 76 (10—Savolt, 16:45.0; 12—Avila, 16:54.4; 15—Kohlhorst, 17:02.2; 18—Balderas, 17:08.2; 21—Casados, 17:21.9)
5—Liberal, 121 (14—Gilmore, 17:01.2; 26—Combs, 17:41.8; 30—Melendez, 18:14.0; 31—Hornya, 18:16.8; 32—Hay, 18:21.0)
1—Rodriguez, Dodge City, 18:22.8
GREAT BEND—2—Malachi Wasson, 18:29.5; 22—Daniel Abbot, 19:54.8; 44—Joseph Bennett, 21:34.4