Salida High School cross-country coach Kenny Wilcox challenged his runners during summer workouts, and those who rose to the challenge faced another challenge Saturday: running at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kansas, in a higher category than they qualified for. His runners rose to the occasion.
The cross-country runners had to meet certain goals to go on the trip to race at Rim Rock Farms, which Wilcox said “is one of the most iconic cross-country courses in the country,” the site of several national championship races.
“Personally, whenever I step foot on the farm, I feel like I’ve been transported back to my Midwestern farm roots,” Wilcox said. “The moment your team bus, van or Prius hits the gravel road and the dust coats your windshield, you know you’ve left Lawrence far behind.
“The course itself rolls and pitches through what would have certainly been cow pasture at one time. Athletes find themselves mostly on grass and a little bit of wood chips as the course winds its way through trees and around ponds.
“On two separate occasions racers blast through covered bridges that resemble mini barns. Like the surrounding topography, Rim Rock challenges racers with breakneck descents and sharp, grinding inclines.”
Wilcox said the team, for its size, qualified for the Blue division, but decided to race in the Crimson division, which he said “is intended for some large schools and mostly good medium-sized schools.”
Of the 12 runners from Salida who competed, nine set personal records or season-best times.
The girls’ team finished 16th of 26 teams in the Crimson division.
Freshman Emerson Reed and junior Lane Baker led the Lady Spartans, both setting personal records and both finishing in 21 minutes, 44 seconds, taking 52nd and 53rd place.
The boys’ team finished second of 34 teams.
The Wilcox brothers, senior Elijah and freshman Zeke, led the boys’ team. Elijah finished in third place in 16:16 while his brother finished 12th with a personal record of 16:51.