Scottsbluff's Barraza wins state cross country title
     2012-10-25      By Terry Gaston   
Bearcat boys 2nd as team; Gering girls place 7th behind Huffman's 9th-place finish

While Scottsbluff sophomore Matthew Barraza scored the Bearcats’ first boys’ individual state cross country championship in 51 years, disappointment still was left for the two-time defending Class B team state champion Bearcats to absorb Friday at the state meet in Kearney.

The Gering girls, on the other hand, were celebrant in their seventh-place team finish in Class B, led by Bulldog senior Rachel Huffman’s ninth-place finish on the Kearney Country Club course.
Huffman finished the 4,000-meter race in 15:38.5, just a half-second behind Scottsbluff’s lone girls’ participant, sophomore Taylor Muncie. Erin Lee, a freshman from York, won the girls’ race in 14:55.1.

“She is such a great competitor,” Gering girls’ coach Caleigh Barker said of Huffman. “She went in with her goal to place and wanted to be on the podium. I think it was her best race of the season, even though she ran faster at districts, the Kearney course is just so much more hilly.

“We wanted her to be in the lead pack and she turned in a great performance on her part.”

Sophomore Kali Rimington was Gering’s second finisher, hitting the line in 36th place in 16:27.4. Senior Damaris Martinez was 55th in 16:54.8, while freshman Marisa Robles came in 59th in 17:02.9. Senior Dakota Gellner took 61st in 17:05.8. Freshman Hadley Kirk was 75th in 17:49.4.

The Bulldogs’ top four team scorers totaled 119 points, three points of Western Conference rival Sidney. The Red Raiders were led by sophomore Alli Ehler’s third-place finish in 15:21.1.

“I thought the girls ran well and I am very proud of them,” Barker said. “They all ran faster than they did at the UNK Invite (on the same course, on Sept. 24). They really ran well and wanted to place in the top five, but we improved on last year’s ninth-place finish.”
Seward was the girls’ team champion with 41 points, with Plattsmouth second at 63. District B-4 champion was fifth with 91 points, four points behind York’s fourth-place count.

In the Class B boys’ race, Barraza used his experience of placing fourth as a freshman last year to run his way to the first state individual boys’ championship won by a Bearcat since Allen Russell won the Class A crown in 1961. Joe Perez won Scottsbluff’s first boys’ title the year before.

With the Bearcats sporting such a young team, Scottsbluff’s individual drought was bound to end in the next year or two. Instead, it ended Friday, when Barraza completed the 5,000-meter course in a winning time of 16:22.1 for a victory by 6.3 seconds.

“We’re very excited for Matthew. He is very deserving and has worked hard, especially in the late season,” Scottsbluff coach Jim Barker said of Barraza, who Barker said had overcome some late-season hip issues. “We’re really proud of him.”

Barker saw two of his runners place in the top three, with junior Anthony Parra just getting nipped for second by Mount Michael Benedictine junior Thomas Kalil.

Both runners had times of 16:28.4, but Barker said the electronic chips put in all runners’ shoes in order to break such a tie recorded Kalil as finishing second.

“It was basically a foot stride that kept Anthony out of second, but to have Matthew and Anthony place 1 and 3 is just phenomenal,” Barker said. “They are great training partners and are the best of friends.”

The team battle came down to the expected schools in Scottsbluff and Mount Michael Benedictine.

Mount Michael runners placed sixth, eighth and ninth to join Kalil in formulating its team score of 25 points.

With junior Brendan Taedter placing 11th in 17:02.8 — three seconds out of the top 10 — and senior Tayler James taking 18th in 17:21.6, the Bearcats’ team count was 32 points. Other Bluffs runners with their places and times were junior Ben Willis-Teff in 21st at 17:29.7 and senior Justin Pritchard in 23rd at 17:34.3.

The Bearcats’ total was well ahead of Seward’s third-place, 85-point total. But for a team with such high expectations, Scottsbluff’s runner-up finish was somewhat disappointing.

“Second is a very good finish to the season, but it’s not what we wanted,” Barker said. “But we’re proud that we got on the awards stand. Most schools would love to be in our shoes and be in the top two.”

While Barker said Barraza overcame his hip injury and Taedter had been battling bronchitis in recent weeks, the biggest winner for both Scottsbluff and Mount Michael was sportsmanship.

“Last year they had the individual champion and we were the team champ, and it was reversed this year. “But we give them nothing but the highest respect. Our guys went over to congratulate them, like their guys did to ours last year.”

Barker also praised Muncie for her eighth-place finish in 15:38.0.
“She had a great start, and the fact that she is just a sophomore is great,” Barker said. “I think she went out to run the race with the attitude to win. If you go out to just make the top 10, most of the time you won’t.”

Class C

In the Class C boys’ competition, Mitchell got a 15th-place finish by junior Tate Harvey in leading the Tigers to a sixth-place team finish. Mitchell scored 107 points in a pack led by Milford with 50 points.

Harvey’s time was 17:33.6. Ogallala senior James McKeag won the Class C boys’ individual title in 16:53.2.

Other Mitchell runners, with their places and times, included junior Levi Avila, in 23rd at 18:03.4; junior Luis Panduro, in 44th at 18:38.1; freshman Edward Grentz, in 68th at 19:16.2; senior Jeremy Carrizales, in 74th at 19:24.7; and freshman Chase Watson, in 87th at 19:46.5.

Class D

In the Class D girls’ race, Bayard freshman Montana Belford carried the area’s torch to a 16th-place finish in 16:17.7. The winning time was 15:08.8 by Aquinas Catholic senior Marissa Dewispelare.

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