LEXINGTON — At Lexington, the cross country team has a saying: “The wolf going down the mountain isn’t as hungry as the wolf going up the mountain.”
For the last four years, the Lexington boys have been the wolf trying to get to the mountaintop, finishing second in Class B to Omaha Skutt.
This year might be different.
Lexington returns four runners from last year’s team that ran at the state meet as well as three more who were part of the group that trained for the final push.
It’s a similar situation this year as coach Sam Jilka said he has nine runners ready to go and will decide today which six step to the starting line at the Nebraska High School Cross Country Championships Friday afternoon at the Kearney Country Club.
“We have some very good depth,” Jilka said, adding that this week puts a lot of mental strain on him and his team. “I would like to run eight, but it is what it is. ... I tell they you have to be a Minuteman. You have to be ready to go in a minute. ...
Today I’ll tell them who’s running.”
The fierce competition within the team extends to race day.
Running in a close-knit pack all year long, they’ve collected more than their share of trophies, winning meets some big meets like the Kearney High Invitational, the Rim Rock Classic at Lawrence, Kan., the UNK Invitational, the Central Conference and last week’s district meet.
Jilka said running in a group, the Minutemen help each other and to much better.
“What we’ve been concentrating on is keeping that pack together. It’s being together and getting into a flow,” he said. “How do you create that synergy within the group. ... You have to work together — be hungry to do a little bit better.”
Throughout the year, the leader of the Lexington pack has been a revolving door. Jayden Ureste, Ian Salazar-Molina and Oscar Aguado-Mendez have taken their turn at the front. Senior Garrett Converse has been close, Jilka said, and he is the only one of the four that ran at state last year, even though the other three were “part of the group we were training” for the state meet.
Aguado-Mendez led the team at the district meet where Lexington swept the top three places and had six in the top nine.
Omaha Skutt did even better at its district, sweeping the top six places. However, in a head-to-head race at the UNK Invitational, Lexington won easily as Skutt was without one of its top runners.
“The kids were excited to win that meet,” Jilka said. “It showed them that this is what made us successful last time, so we don’t need to tweak too much.”
Lexington’s girls also qualified as a team, finishing second in the district meet, placing three in the top 11.
Bearcat girls ran as a pack
The Kearney High girls, at full strength for the first time in the last few weeks, finished second at the district to qualify as a team.
Freshman Abigail Burger finished fifth in the district meet, but four of her teammates crossed the finish line roughly within 35 seconds of Burger.
No Kearney High boys qualified for the meet.
Minden boys and girls qualify in Class C
Minden’s boys were a top-10 finisher in the team race at the UNK Invitational and won their district meet to qualify for state.
Cooper Land, Konner Verbeck, Caden Jameson and Alex Boudreau were top-15 finishers at the district.
The Minden girls finished second in the district meet, good enough to qualify for state, and accomplished the feat while running without No. 1 runner Jessie Hurt, who placed eighth at the UNK Invitational.
Shelton boys, Ravenna’s Schroeder Class D district champions
Three Hub Territory boys teams qualified for state — Shelton, Bertrand/Loomis and Axtell. Shelton qualified by winning its district meet. The Bulldogs were third at the UNK Invitational with Axtell fourth.
North Platte St. Pat’s won the UNK meet and the Irish won the district with Axtell and Bertrand/Loomis by sweeping the top five places.