DHS cross country team prepares for postseason

The DHS boys cross country team poses for a picture at the KC Metro Classic on Oct. 2.

The DHS boys’ cross country team poses for a picture at the KC Metro Classic on Oct. 2.

Brady Huggins, Co-Editor-in-Chief

De Soto High School’s boys’ and girls’ cross country teams participated in one of the most competitive races of the season on Oct. 2. The KC Metro Classic in Peculiar, Missouri, represented another tough test for the Wildcats as they continue their chase for State qualification. Both teams responded to the challenge, highlighted by the boys’ team’s third place finish. 

Head coach Jack Sachse was thoroughly impressed with the team’s performance, particularly on the boys’ side. 

“I knew almost immediately that the boys ran really well,” Sachse said. “[Assistant coach Ben] Stamey and I knew the race went well when we saw our pack and where our guys were in the race.” 

The girls’ team also gutted out another strong performance, despite missing freshman Brooke Bundt, one of their top runners. Senior Katelyn Gress spoke to the girls’ resilience. 

“Sophie [Landrum] medaled, but the rest of the girls had a rough race,” Gress said. “We powered through and finished though.” 

For both teams, the race marked the last meet before the start of the postseason, which begins with the UKC Championship on Oct. 14. Heading into the conference meet as clear favorites, Sachse has high expectations for girls’ and boys’ teams. 

“We’d like to be UKC champs on both sides,” Sachse said. 

Following the UKC Championship, the Wildcats will face their most important race of the season at the Regional Championship on Oct. 23. The Regional includes a number of top ranked schools in the state of Kansas, which will result in a highly competitive meet. 

“At the beginning of the season, I would’ve expected both teams to get to State,” Sachse said. “But we have a tough Regional, so I’d be happy to get the boys’ team qualified and have a couple of individuals from the girls’ team go as well.” 

When Regional assignments were released last week, it brought back a few painful memories from the boys’ team’s fourth-place finish a year ago. The boys’ team came up one point short of rival Mill Valley High School, separated by less than half a second. Nonetheless, the boys’ team is excited to have a second chance at State qualification in another challenging Regional meet. 

“We want to qualify and place at State,” junior Joshua Fullmer said. “We’ve gotten a lot better at working together in workouts and races, and we’re a lot faster too.” 

In contrast, an unfortunate injury on the girls’ side has hurt their chances of qualifying for the State meet. 

“Earlier we were feeling good about our chances, but then we got a really tough Regional assignment and freshman Brooke Bundt, our second runner, injured her ankle,” Gress said. 

Sachse also mentioned the injury of Bundt, who has shined as one of the girls’ team’s top runners. 

“The nature of our sport will never completely eliminate injuries, and the fluke injury [to Bundt] is especially tough.” 

As the postseason approaches, Sachse reflected on the season’s progression, dating all the way back to Summer training in June. 

“Going into the season, I thought this was the best girls and boys have been combined since I’ve been here,” Sachse said. “We’re really good on both sides.”

Senior  Owen Gier commented on the boys’ team’s growth throughout the season. 

“We’ve definitely come together and bonded a lot,” Gier said. “We’ve pushed ourselves really hard to overachieve expectations.” 

Fullmer also talked about the positive atmosphere of the boys’ team and the sport as a whole. 

“Everyone is super encouraging,” Fullmer said. “We work hard but have a lot of fun too.” 

On the girls’ side it is more of the same. Sophomore Ailey Freeman preached on the girls’ support for each other. 

“The culture is really uplifting and supportive,” Freeman said. “It’s a really good community feel.” 

Both teams have multiple individuals who play key roles in each team’s success. Gress referenced the importance of the girls’ team’s senior leadership. 

“All of the older girls play an important leadership role,” Gress said. “I try to encourage younger runners, especially after tough races. We’ve created a really good environment.” 

Similarly, the boys’ team also has a number of leaders and key contributors. Fullmer’s improvement over the last six months has played a crucial role in the boys’ success. 

“I’ve improved a lot from last year and have been able to score in our top three each race this year,” Fullmer said. “We also have seniors who give us a lot of good motivation and discipline.” 

Sachse added the steady progression of senior Jamie Brown as another key component of the boys’ team. 

“Jamie has become a huge contributor to one of the best boys’ teams we’ve ever had,” Sachse said.

Brown also symbolizes the program’s growth as a whole.

“The boys and girls have worked  hard this year, but it’s also been a culmination of years of hard work,” Sachse said. “Year after year, our program has made progress.” 

With only a handful of races remaining, athletes on both the girls’ and boys’ sides continue to push towards their individual and collective goals.

“My biggest goal is to keep improving my time and lock in mentally,” Freeman said. “I would get nervous before meets last year, but now I’m trying to just relax and enjoy myself.” 

Gier also spoke to his goals for the season, despite his battle with a hip injury. 

“I wanted to run under 16 minutes prior to injury, but now I’m just hoping to get a new season best,” Gier said. “I’ve just tried to keep my head high, listen to coach, and work my hardest even when it’s challenging.” 

Sachse spoke to the toughness Gier has shown throughout the season, regardless of his injury. 

“For a guy like Owen, it’s tough for him that he’s not having the senior year he wants to have,” Sachse said. 

With the conference meet drawing closer, the Wildcats will get every chance to achieve and surpass their goals and expectations. 

“It’s the early practices and weekend long runs that have put us in a good position,” Sachse said. “However, I don’t want to be overconfident about the boys’ team.” 

Sachse is well aware of the boys’ failure to qualify for the State meet last year, so he has continued to increase the intensity of the boys’ training. 

“Some people see me as lowkey and relaxed,” Sachse said. “But I really want to compete and win.” 

It is clear that the devastation the boys’ team suffered last season has only sparked more motivation this time around. And according to their coach, they will be ready to capitalize on their second chance at State qualification.