West Franklin cross country runners display grit, talent at Wamego

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The state-ranked West Franklin cross country teams are turning heads so far this early season.

The Falcons gave a glimpse of how good they might be Saturday in the Wamego Invitational, which is one of the top small high school meets of the season.

West Franklin’s Hunter Bailey and Kyle Haner pushed each other to a sixth-seventh place finish in the 3A boys race Saturday at Wamego.

West Franklin finished with seven individual medalists and the boys team was the runner-up in 3A.

“The Falcon cross country team continues to make progress this season and prove that they intend to be in this for the long run,” West Franklin coach Ryan Hahn said. “Competing at the Wamego Invitational, they faced formidable hills and well over 100 runners per race from more than 20 other teams.”

Emma Bailey turned in one of her best races of her career with a runner-up  finish. The four girls battled throughout the race, Hahn said.

“From the start, it was clear that they knew what to expect and they were confident in their plan,” Hahn said of the four girls. “It didn’t take long for Emma Bailey and Lily Judd to find their position in the top 20.”

The coach said Bailey raced strong moving up her position throughout the race.

“The gaps continued to close and she soon found herself in second, where she would finish with a season’s best time,” Hahn said.

Judd came in 15th with a season’s-best time.

“A little farther back, Hope Crabtree and Mackenzie Walter were in their own battles for a medal,” Hahn said. “With an incredible final 800-meters, Hope passed three runners to claim 38th and an individual medal.” Mackenzie finished in 48th, setting herself up well for her return for the state meet later this year, Hahn said

The boys had the same fighting spirit, Hahn said. The Falcons, ranked fifth in 3A by the Kansas cross country coaches, had three runners place in the top 16.

“The boys team showed similar fortitude late in the race,” Hahn said. “Hunter Bailey and Kyle Haner found themselves battling with duos from two other schools. They passed the pair from Sabetha shortly after the two-mile mark, and went on the chase for the one from Christ Prep. Through the final stretch, they we’re able to finish in sisth and seventh.”

Lucas Hassler worked his way up throughout the race to a 16th place finish and a season’s best, with Nathan Hassler also claiming a medal in 36th, Hassler said.

Martir Caceres-Ramos conquered the downhills with exceptional speed for an overall place of 41st, Hahn said.

West Franklin had their best boys team finish in a major regular-season meet in years by taking second. The Falcons had 93 points, well ahead of third-place Bennington (171).

Hahn said the Falcons have high expectations for the rest of the season.

“The Falcons will aim to return to Wamego for the state championships in late October,” he said.

Wamegi Invitational (40 medalists)

High School Girls: Emma Bailey (2nd), Lily Judd (15th), Hope Crabtree (38th), Mackenzie Walter (48th).

High School Boys (Team 2nd*): Hunter Bailey (6th), Kyle Haner (7th), Lucas Hassler (16th), Nathan Hassler (36th), Martir Caceres-Ramos (41st), Kale Link (42nd), Timothy Pearce (137th).

JV Boys: Noah King (77th), Gideon King (167th).