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Things heat up at Monarch Invitational

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

The triple-digit heat certainly wasn't doing the Thomas More Prep-Marian cross country team any favors on Saturday at the third annual Monarch Invitational on the TMP campus.

Illness already had the Monarchs down their No. 5 boys' runner, and their top girls runner was dealing with a sinus infection and ruptured eardrum.

It wasn't the most ideal of conditions to start a season.

"It's hot. That's my thought right now," TMP cross country coach Matt Dumler said following the awards ceremony. Dumler spent much of the morning on a bicycle leading the runners through the 4K and 5K courses. "It played its part. We had a couple of kids that had to drop out of the race from different teams because of the heat. And it's a lot hotter than what the forecast even had."

TMP was even hotter than the weather, which despite the heat ran its way to the team boys' title in the Jr./Sr. division. The girls' team took second place after tying for first and losing out to Trinity Catholic via tiebreakers.

Kayla Walker, who ran with the ruptured eardrum, was the top finisher for the TMP girls with a time of 17 minutes, 55 seconds in the 4K race, taking fourth. Alyssa Keil finished ninth was a time of 19:27.

Matt Mindrup led the boys with a 5K time of 19:46 to finish seventh. Austin Dinkel, TMP's lone senior, took 11th with a time of 20:42.

"I couldn't have asked any more of these kids," Dumler said. "We knew coming in that we would have a shot at the team titles because the kids have been running really well."

Dumler was particularly happy with the girls' team, which is going "through a shift in identity" after losing many key runners from last season, including Heather Ruder, who is now at Kansas State University.

Despite the losses, the group that has returned gives Dumler a reason to be optimistic for the season.

"This year we've got a good core of girls that can run very, very well together and push each other," Dumler said. "We've talked all season about not letting people tell us we aren't going to be as good as we were last year, because they are a really good team."

The boys return all but two of its varsity members from last year. Even so, Dinkel remains the only senior on a very young team that also has high hopes for the season.

"I have some good guys following me, running hard," Dinkel said. "Hopefully we can make it to state this year -- it's been a struggle the past three years. We've been working pretty hard the last three years and now have a good, young team we can run with and we went out and got the win."

The Monarchs next run at the Wamego Invitational on Sept. 14.

Ness City takes home top individual honors

Ness City seniors Dray Carson and Jessie Rubottom enter the season as motivated as ever after disappointing seasons a year ago, at least by their standards.

"After her track season not going so well last season, not getting what she wanted, we both really want a lot out of this season," Carson said. "Hopefully we both get that individual title, so we are both going to help each other."

The individual title he iss referring to is the state title, and both are off to a good start after winning the individual titles on Saturday at the Monarch Invitational.

Carson, the defending Class 2A state champion led the boy's 5K with a time of 17 minutes, 12 seconds, well ahead of second place Tommy Fink of Trinity Catholic, who ran it in 18:51. Rubottom ran the girls' 4K in 16:23, coming in 37 seconds ahead of Skyline's Brooke Fischer.

The Ness City boys took third as a team behind TMP and Pratt Skyline. Ness City doesn't field a full girls team.

"I could tell (Carson) was still kind of rusty as far as the race and not being sharp yet," Ness City cross country coach Patrick Younger said. "So I was very pleased the way he came out today. And with Jessie, she set her goals pretty high. This is just kind of one step closer to those goals at state."

The heat played into the strategy of both runners, with Younger wanting them to take it easy, especially Rubottom. But once she got going and everything was good, she decided to let loose.

"Coach wanted me to go out conservative that first mile, so I did just that," she said. "At the mile mark I was feeling pretty good and I felt the rest of the girls dropping back, so I just picked up.

"When I got on the football field (near the finish line) it was just whatever I had left."