Published Friday, October 25, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 2:03 am
Lexington second with six runners

KEARNEY — As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers. But the Lexington Minutemen must have never heard the phrase because they turned a squad of just six athletes into a runner-up finish in the Class B Nebraska State Cross Country Championship at the Kearney Country Club on Friday.

John Mark Shields, Alam Alvarez, Horacio Gaeta, Ricardo Gaeta, Chandler Flynn and Anfernee Covarrubias-Linare combined for 53 points for the Minutemen as they finished second to Scottsbluff with 29 points. Lincoln Pius X was third with 62 points.

"Very proud of the boys," said Lexington coach Sam Jilka. "When you only have six running all year and you ask so much of them and they produce, it's very exciting and I'm just very proud of them.

"I'm happy they have that reward for their hard work."

Jilka said he wasn't surprised with the team's placing.

"I know what they can do but at the same time, you have to put it all together on race day and that's the toughest part," the coach said. "They were able to do that.

"Chandler stepped up to run his best race as our fourth runner and that was a key part. They had to close the gap to our top three."

Shields finished seventh with a time of 16 minutes, 37.3 seconds; followed by teammate Alam Alvarez in eighth at 16:39.2.

"John ran incredible. He really stepped it up and he's been that leader for us, maybe not in the performance, but gathering the guys and getting them focused on what we needed to do," Jilka said. "I'm so proud. He got up there and was so gutsy and ran very well.

"Alam was right behind him. Alam did an outstanding job of backing him up. We were hoping in the race he would stay right with him, was off just a little bit, but ran a very good race. I'm just so proud of them of what they accomplished."

For Shields, the race couldn't have gone much better.

"It went really well. We've been working hard. All year we've had it in our head that we needed to compete hard at state," he said.

"It's been a pretty tough journey with only having six runners all year, but we just kept going. I think from all the hard work, we did really good."

The Lexington Minutemaids finished 12th as a team. Odaliz Santoyo-Garcia was the only medalist at 13th in 19:48.7.

McCook's Molly Sughroue, coming off a second-place finish in 2012, could do no better than sixth in this year's meet. Sughroue ran the course in 19:27.6.

In Class C, Cozad was represented by both the boys and girls squads.

The boys finished fourth with 79 points in a division won by Milford with 45 points.

The Lady Haymakers ended the day in sixth with 105 points. Columbus Scotus won Class C with 45 points.

Finishing in fourth for the Haymakers was junior Graham Applegate. Applegate said his teammates tried to run in a pack.

"I was with my teammates around the 2 or 3K and I started picking it up," said Applegate, "trying to get up with the top group and I guess I did."

"Graham ran really well," said Cozad coach Dustin Favinger. "He is our highest finisher in school history.

"But we had some boys with some loftier goals and it just didn't work out for us.

"We felt like we were prepared when we came in. We had a good week of practices and everybody felt dialed in today. We don't feel anybody let up and didn't run well, it just didn't happen for us."

Gothenburg's freshman Collin Hahn medaled in 11th in a time of 17:27.6 and Jaco Henning of Ogallala ran a time of 17:30.9 for 14th.

Valeria Estrada earned a medal in 10th for the Lady Haymakers. Estrada's time was 20:55.2.

"We were pleasantly surprised with the girls team when the season started," Favinger said. "We kind of had some ups and downs with them all year but Valeria is only a freshman and we lose one senior and have some young talent coming up. It's still very promising on the girls side.

"We did have some real good performances today."

The Lady Swedes of Gothenburg finished 11th as a team with 153 points.

St. Pat's junior Anna O'Malley carried the flag for the Lady Irish in Class D.

O'Malley improved on her 16th place from a year ago to finish sixth with a time of 20:23.4.

O'Malley's finish was somewhat of a surprise — at least to her.

"I wasn't expecting to do as well as I did," said O'Malley. "I'm really excited.

"I got a better start than I did last year and tried to stay where I was. It worked out well. It's definitely the best because I haven't done this well at state or felt this well at state."

"It's awesome. I'm so excited," said St. Pat's coach Marie Brosius. "She really proved that she can do it without [her cousin] Mandy [O'Malley]. She's been scared all year and she did it."

O'Malley hopes her highest finish at state will propell her into next year's meet.

"I'm going to be more pumped to do even better next year at state," O'Malley said. "It's different than our normal meets because there are so many more people. It makes the meet more exciting to run in."

Perkins County had the highest area finish in the girls competition as they were 13th with 208 points. Crofton won Class D with 32 points.

Chase County led the area Class D boys teams in sixth place with 104 points. Indy Smith ran a time of 18:17.6 for 25th for the Longhorns. Rodger Farr of Eustis Farnam/Medicine Valley was the top individual in eighth at 17:26.1.

The St. Pat's Irish completed the 2013 championships in 12th place with 206 points. Senior Brandon Adkins finished 38th with a time of 18:47.0 and teammate Merritt Eastman was 39th in 18:48.4.

Mark Obermeier
Sports Reporter
Office: 308-535-4744 ext. 244
Fax: 308-532-9268 Email:

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