Mustangs place 11th in state



November 2, 2015 - 12:00 AM

WAMEGO — After a grueling season that started back in July, the Iola High varsity boys cross country team capped off the year with an 11th-place finish in the Kansas 4A State Cross Country Championship on Saturday afternoon.
In a tough field of competition and an even tougher course that featured hills the Mustangs haven’t seen all season, coach Marv Smith’s squad finished just 12 points ahead of last-place Paola.
“This was one of the tougher state meets I have attended,” said Smith, who wrapped up his 36th season as Iola’s head cross country coach.
There were just six seniors in the top-31 spots in the 2014 meet, which meant that the majority of this year’s runners already had experience on the course. Iola, on the other hand, fielded its first state team competitor since 2012.
The Mustangs also had to overcome a slew of injuries to key runners throughout the year with a limited amount of depth. So, despite finishing outside the top-10 on Saturday, Smith said he was impressed with his team’s resilience.
Iola finished the day with 262 total team points. Baldwin High School won the meet with 47 points.
Junior Braden Plumlee, who finished fifth in the Mustangs’ regional meet, had hoped to crack the top-20 in the state meet, which would have qualified him for an individual medal.
But the competition proved tougher than expected and Plumlee earned a 57th-place finish overall with a time of 18:17, which was the best among the rest of the Mustangs.
“The hills took their toll and it was somewhat expected,” Smith said. “We do not have hills for practice.  We went to the golf courses on Monday and Tuesday during regional week and state week, but even our golf courses do not have terrain that compares to the Wamego course.”
Iola began the race “hell bent for election,” as Smith put it, in order to beat the competition up the daunting hill at the start as well as get an advantage heading into the course’s sharp U-turn 300 meters into the race.
He added if the meet would have ended after the first mile, the Mustangs would have placed either sixth or seventh.
“The team asked my opinion and I said, ‘Let’s go for it — we have nothing to lose as long as we can beat Paola,’” Smith said. 
But the final two miles of the course took its toll on Iola’s top runners.
“Braden, Kendall (Jay), and Colby (Works) were all in the top third of the field, but we couldn’t stay there,” Smith said.
What’s most promising about Iola’s future in cross country is that the team will only lose Colby Works to graduation.
So the rest of the Mustangs’ top runners like Plumlee, Jay and Isaiah Fawson should all help take the squad back to Wamego in 2016.
“If we can get back to Wamego next year, we hope for better results,” Smith said.



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