The Ottawa High School boys cross-country team can’t wait to get to the 4A state meet Saturday in Wamego.
Who could blame them. It has been a 16-year absence for the Cyclones to compete as a team at state.
Ottawa coach Chris Kornhaus hopes this group of runners can make multiple state meets with all of the runners eligible to return next season.
The coach said this experience can only help in future years.
“This is going to help us down the road,” he said. “This is just another step in what we want to get done. We don’t want to waste this opportunity. If we do what I tell them, I will be tickled. We want to leave with a good taste in our mouth. I want it to fuel the fire.”
The team concept is what took the Cyclones from an average team to a state-qualifier at the end of the season.
Kornhaus said there is a misconception among outsiders and even in the ranks of the runners that cross-country is not a team sport, but an individual sport.
The coach worked to change that and the point was hammered home after Ottawa’s regional runner-up finish Saturday in Garnett.
Kornhaus said all the runners are competing at state because of the team success and not any individual.
“They all accept it [now],” Kornhaus said. “Everybody has to be all in. These guys did not have any models since it has been too long.”
Sophomore Sam White said the team continues to work on team-building this week during practice.
“We can [accomplish good things] as a group,” White said. “We have the confidence, discipline and dedication. We have gone up against bigger schools. We can compete.”
Kornhaus spent the week talking to the seven runners about what to expect. The race is like no other they will experience.
“It is a zoo-like atmosphere ... environment,” Kornhaus said. “They are going to get excited. We can’t let the nerves get out of control.”
The Wamego Country Club course has stretches of hills and even terrain.
“We have to stay in the moment,” Kornhaus said. “We have to race smart. We have to keep the pace that will keep them in the game. They have to stay within themselves. We have to set realistic goals.”
Focus is a big word for the Cyclones. Kornhaus said the runners need to keep a positive frame of mind and don’t let outside factors be a distraction.
“We have to keep our composure like we did all year,” White said.
Kornhaus said the state meet always has unpredictable events.
“That is why we run these races,” Kornhaus said.
Ottawa and Franklin County sports can be followed on twitter @ottawasports1