Panhandle runners shine in Kearney

Western Nebraska runners ruled the day at the Nebraska State Cross Country Championships in Kearney Friday.

The day started spectacularly with the Mitchell High Tigers taking two gold in Class C and ended with the Scottsbluff Bearcat boys ruling in Class B again.

The Class C girls ran the Kearney Country Club course first and Mitchell freshman Celeste Cardona came away with a first place finish. She covered the course in 20:18.4. Kiya Passero of Chadron ended up in fourth, leading the Cardinals to a fifth place team finish. Columbus Scotus won the Class C team title by 15 points over second place Norfolk Catholic.

While Cardona was running as an individual for Mitchell, Levi Avila ran with the rest of his Tiger teammates in the boys division. In fact, he ran in front of his teammates, and the entire field, to capture gold. His time was 17:04.5. His efforts helped Mitchell finish second in the team standings behind champion Milford.

Other Mitchell runners Friday included Tate Harvey(18th), Edward Grentz(34th), Chase Watson(52nd), Luis Panduro(74th) and Cody Mueller(84th). There were 97 runners in the field and the top four scores counted for the team total. The Tigers finished with 68 points compared to 45 for Milford.

Chadron's Philip Duncan was 10th in the standings.

Crofton took both the Class D girls' and boys' team championships Friday, but area runners fared quite well. In the girls competition Jesse Smith of Bayard was third with a time of 20:11.8. Smith finished two spots ahead of Sheridan Wellnitz of Gordon-Rushville.

In the Class D boys race Ryan Muneio of Kimball was the top area finisher with a 37th place finish.

After turning in a perfect score in their district meet a week ago, the Scottsbluff Bearcat boys capped a great season with a 10th Class B state championship for the school, the most ever by any Class B team.

Matthew Barraza paced Jim Barker's crew with a meet medalist time of 15:57.1. Anthony Parra joined Barraza in the top ten with a fifth place finish. The Bearcats also had Shane Burkey in 11th, Ben Willis-Teff in 12th, Brendan Taedter in 21st and Elias Hutt in 49th.

The Cats finished with a 29-point total, 24 points better than second place Lexington, who also finished second to Scottsbluff at the district meet in Ogallala.

Gering, which got third at districts, settled for 10th in the 12 team state field. The Bulldogs were paced by Steven Juarez with a 19th place finish. Other Bulldog runners included Jacey Shaul(44th), Aaron Pierce(50th), Keenan Fogle(65th), Arich Knaub(77th) and Kyle Upp(88th).

For the senior members of the Scottsbluff team it was their third state championship in four years. They won titles as while in 2010 and 2011 before being edged out by Elkhorn Mt. Michael in 2012. Mt. Michael finished fourth this year.

Scottsbluff High School won the very first two Class A state championships contested in 1960 and 1961. They began their Class B collection of titles with three straight crowns between 1996-98. They won again in 2000, and between 2003-05.

Coach Barker's girls also competed in Kearney. Junior Taylor Muncie turned in an outstanding performance, finishing second with a time of 19:00.7. Gering freshman Rebekah Rawlings also had a top ten performance with a fifth place finish.

Gering, coached by Jim Barker's daughter, Caleigh Walker, finished sixth in the team standings. Scottsbluff was 11th. The two tied for the top spot at the district meet in Ogallala, with Gering winning the title on tiebreakers.

Besides Rawlings for the Bulldogs, Kali Rimington finished 24th, Jeryln Laws was 42nd, Hadley Kirk was 65th, Julia Ybarra was 71st and Allison Witcofski was 78th.

Following Muncie for Scottsbluff were Shayleigh James(47th), Claire Holsinger(51st), Vanessa Avalos(80th), Abbigail Tygart(85th) and Brenda Mitchell-Martine(87th).

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