West Franklin cross country teams sweep league titles

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The West Franklin cross country teams’ postseason run is off to a fantastic start. The state-ranked Falcon squads were crowned Flint Hills League Champions.

This is the girls third league title in four seasons.

The West Franklin girls cross country team won their third league title in four seasons.

“Impressive running by all of the Falcons and earned them this honor at ‘The Orchard,’ the Northern Heights course just north of Emporia,” West Franklin coach Ryan Hahn said. “Rain earlier in the week created a few mud crossings, but as the owner of The Orchard said before the race, “This is cross country.  No cross ‘golf course’ or cross ‘city park.’”

The West Franklin boys cross country team repeated as league champs with six runners in the top 20.

The Falcons teams have been successful all season, earning state rankings by the coaches. The girls are No. 2, while the boys are No. 5 in the latest 3A poll.

“Both high school teams entered the meet as the team favorites, but nothing is ever guaranteed in this sport,” Hahn said. “We run the race to see who is the best on that day, in those conditions, regardless of previous times or win/loss records.  So the athletes went to work.”

The girls ran with a chip on their shoulder after surrendering the team title in 2020 because of lack of numbers.

“With a full roster this season, they went out to reclaim it,” Hahn said. “And they did so emphatically.”

The girls finished with five girls in the top eight. Emma Bailey was the league champion with a school record time of 19:51. Lily Judd came in fourth, followed by Hope Crabtree (fifth), Mackenzie Walter (seventh) and Katie Cameron (eighth).

“Emma Bailey started the race comfortably, with only one competitor sitting on her shoulder,” Hahn said. “Shortly after a mile, Emma had dropped the competitor and the gap grew rapidly.”

Judd had another solid race and Crabtree broke 22 minutes for the first time, Hahn said. Walter and Cameron had career-best races. Liz Pischel improved her personal best by over four minutes, and Lena Walter ran her fourth season best out of four races, Hahn said.

West Franklin scored 21 points to best runner-up Osage City by 30 points.

The boys were just as dominant by placing six in the top 20 as the Falcons defended their title.

“The high school boys team had six returners from their 2020 league championship team, so they were bringing experience along with their fitness,” Hahn said. “The race started at a blazing pace, but the boys exuded confidence.  They knew what they needed to do.”

They all bunched together. The top-20 placers were Hunter Bailey (third), Kyle Haner (fourth), Lucas Hassler (ninth), Martir Caceres-Ramos (16th), Nathan Hassler (18th) and Kale Link (20th).

“Hunter Bailey and Kyle Haner moved toward their usual position toward the front of the race, chasing down the two leaders,” Hahn said.  “Lucas Hassler made move after move, gliding past runners as he moved into the top 10. The trio of Nathan Hassler, Kale Link, and Martir Caceres-Ramos set themselves up in positions where they could see their battle for the team.”

Bailey broke the 17-minute mark for the first time. Haner just missed that barrier at 17:01. Lucas Hassler improved his time by 42 seconds. Noah King, Timothy Pearce, Andre Snow, and Gideon King all ran season best times, Hahn said.

West Franklin finished with 48 points to best runner-up Council Grove (64).

“It was a great day for this team,” Hahn said. “They have done a lot behind the scenes to get to this point, and now they are getting to see the result of their accumulated efforts. The high school runners take their next step one week from Saturday.”

It will be the regional race at Sabetha.

West Franklin league results:

7th/8th Grade Girls: Kara McCormick (8th), Lacy Judd (13th), Mya Crabtree (20th).

7th/8th Grade Boys (Team 4th): Andrew Patterson (11th), Abe Link (26th), Kurtis McCormick (28th), Teagan Sink (29th), Coy Link (31st), Bryce Link (38th).

High School Girls (Team 1st): Emma Bailey (1st), Lily Judd (4th), Hope Crabtree (5th), Mackenzie Walter (7th), Katie Cameron (8th), Liz Pischel (28th), Lena Walter (33rd).

High School Boys (Team 1st): Hunter Bailey (3rd), Kyle Haner (4th), Lucas Hassler (9th), Martir Caceres-Ramos (16th), Nathan Hassler (18th), Kale Link (20th), Noah King (40th), Timothy Pearce (44th), Andre Snow (61st), Gideon King (64th).