A festive atmosphere greeted more than 360 cross country runners Tuesday, as competitors from 26 schools flocked to Iola for the Doc Stiles Invitational.
With medals aplenty, local runners offered up a good showing for fans who cheered them on at every twist and turn of the course on the campus of Allen Community College.
“What a meet!” Iola head coach Marv Smith gushed, noting the turnout makes the Doc Stiles one of the largest in this part of the state.
He attributed the large crowd to the growing popularity of the sport among smaller schools. Of the 26 schools in attendance, 12 were in Class 4A.
The Mustang varsity runners took home four medals and earned second place behind Pittsburg, which featured a combination of runners from Pittsburg High and Colgan St. Mary’s.
Iola’s top three runners each had personal-best marks in the 5k race.
Kohl Endicott led the way for the Mustangs, taking sixth with a time of 18 minutes, 13.28 seconds, followed by Braden Plumlee in 10th at 18:34.07.
“Kohl’s time was a personal best by a significant margin,” Smith said. “It’s not a surprise. He works very hard in practice.”
Plumlee, meanwhile, is a freshman and has only a handful of varsity races in his career.
“Getting a freshman in the top 10 is big for us,” Smith said.
Michael Wilson finished 18th at 19:20, another personal best. Jeremy Spears, usually among Iola’s top runners, was suffering from allergies, Smith said, but still took a 20th place medal at 19:27.69.
In the girls race, Iola’s Abigail Taylor stayed in the top 10 from start to finish in her 4k race and wound up seventh.
The race did not feature Fort Scott’s Katren Rienbolt, the defending state cross country champion in Class 4A, but still had plenty of firepower, Smith noted.
“The girl who wound up 10th was one of the tops in the state last year,” he noted.
IOLA RAKED in some serious hardware in the junior varsity races.
The Fillies’ Megan Klubek won her race at 18:24.15, more than 17 seconds faster than her nearest pursuer.
The Mustang JV had four runners finish in the top 10, and six in the top 20. Leading the way were Travis Hermstein, third, 20:01.32; Colby Works, fourth, 20:19.24; Yohon Sinclair, seventh, 20:48.72; and Thomas Elder, eighth, 21:15.26.
Jonathan Tidd, 17th at 22:19.74, and Dareece Bell, 20th at 23:22.42, also medaled for Iola’s JV.
Iola also had two medalists in the freshman boys race. Isaiah Fawson placed fifth in the 4k at 16:32.85, while Ryan Eyster was 14th at 17:55.19.
Iola Middle School’s runners had a banner day. Seventh grader Natalie DeGrado won the girls race, a 1-mile run, at 6:59.28, while Chloe Hageman was third at 7:33.59. For the boys, Iola went 2-3-4. Bret Plumlee finished in 6:31.48, Jack Eyster was third at 6:54.92, and Jaxson Wiltse was fourth at 7:14.92.
OTHER AREA schools had nice days on the course.
Yates Center High’s Drake Busteed finished fifth in the boys varsity at 18:08.82, followed by Brett Holloway in 15th (18:52.96). Kim Youngsic was ninth in the boys JV race (21:15.58).
Yates Center also won both middle school races. Colin Bedell won amongst the eighth-graders with a finish of 12:24.89 in the 2-mile run. Hadley Splechter won the seventh-grade race at 5:55.98.
“Considering the competition we were up against, we accounted for ourselves very well,” Yates Center head coach Rex McVey said. “And if you look at the middle school results, you can see why I’m so excited about the future of Yates Center cross country.”