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Leaders go a bit off course at HHS Invitational

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Ness City High School cross country coach Patrick Younger calls Eagle senior Dray Carson and Ellinwood's Pedro Montoya "without a doubt" the top Class 2A runners. On Thursday, the duo was easily the best at the Hays High Invitational at the HHS course, a meet that featured 18 schools, including nine from the Class 5-6A ranks. However, Montoya and Carson's dominance caused the pair to run off course on the nature trail on the backside.

"I was right behind Pedro," Carson said. "When I turned, I was like, 'This doesn't seem right,'

Montoya eventually won the race in 15 minutes, 14.27 seconds. Carson. the defending state champion, finished second in 16:03. No one else ran faster than 17:35. HHS coach Jerold Harris said Montoya and Carson shaved a minute, possibly more, off their time.

"When they hit our nature trail back in there -- it's well-marked by the way and coned -- I could put you in there and you would know where to go," Harris said. "Here's a cut in, but here is a white line, so you follow the white line. They turned early."

Harris considered disqualifying Montoya and Carson. Ness City didn't have a full team, but Ellinwood won the Class 4-1A division with 33 points. Goodland was second at 57 and Thomas More Prep-Marian was third with 65. Had the coaches disqualified Montoya, Goodland possibly would have won. However, the Goodland coach told Harris, "We are good, accidents happen," and wanted the results to stand. The HHS girls took sixth out of eight teams in the 5-6A division with 131 points. Garden City, the defending 6A runner-up, dominated the field with 22 points. Junction City was second at 83, but 32 points ahead of the rest of the field.

"I knew it would be tough for our girls," Harris said. "You would like to preach team medals, but those are kind of sewed up."

Freshman Marie Reveles paced the Indians with a 10th-place finish in 17:08.51. Reveles had a great season for Hays Middle School last fall, but played basketball during the summer. Harris thought Reveles was going to have surgery, but she was healthy on the first day of practice and worked hard throughout the year.

"A point where we were praying that we would still have Marie," Harris said.

Harris was also pleased with the girls' pack time. Earlier in the fall, it was around 2:30. On Thursday, it was in the 2:05-2:10 range.

On the boys' side, Hays High took eighth out of nine teams with 167 points; Liberal won with 54 points. Landon Munsch took 19th in 18:37. The pack time was around 1:10; Harris was a little disappointed and wanted it more around 45 seconds. Still, with six runners under 19:45, Harris believes the Indians could compete well at the end of the year.

"They work so hard, I think we will surprise some people," Harris said.

In the 4-1A division, Andrew Hess led TMP with a fourth-place finish (18:26.60). Hess has improved by two minutes since last year and credited coach Matt Dumler for the improvement.

"Coach has got us doing a lot of good workouts," Hess said. "We are sticking together as a team and getting better everyday. There is a lot of good guys out there, hope to be as good as them sometime."

Hess didn't have any issues with the nature trail route.

"There were a lot of people around me at the time, so I was running straight," he said.

However, Montoya and Carson, well ahead of the field, did. The two runners only meet a couple times a year, including state. Carson labeled himself "Debbie Downer" after not running a great race and taking second to his good friend.

"Pedro is a really good kid, and I've got to know their coach really well, and it's a rivalry, but it's a healthy rivalry," Younger said. "I think it honestly brings the best out of both of them. I think they enjoy it. They are competitive, but before and after the race, they are definitely friends. It's fun to watch them get after each other."