Valley Center runners set out to improve on 5A finish
Typically, a two-time state medalist will command a certain type of attention in the cross country circuit.
But Valley Center junior Shelby Marten has no qualms about not being the purple-clad runner her opponents worry about. That title belongs to senior Morgan Wedekind, a two-time state cross country champion.
The team is what Marten is more concerned about. While Wedekind has achieved individual success, the closest Valley Center has been to a team title in her three years was last season’s fifth-place finish in Class 5A.
“I feel like we have a really good opportunity to do something great this year,” said Marten, one of six returners from last season. “We have some really strong runners and I think if we all stay healthy, then we can do something great.”
Valley Center is craving a top-three finish, but recognizes the obstacle presented by the four teams that finished ahead of it last season. Of the five scoring runners for those teams, all but one are back.
That means the Hornets simply must improve, which coach Lonnie Thiessen believes they have. Marten and sophomore Kayla Barton were top-25 finishers at state last season, and incoming freshman Kalee Owens figures to join them on that level.
“The thing that is so great about Shelby and Kayla is they’re extremely consistent,” Thiessen said. “I don’t know if they’ve ever had a bad race. As a coach, it’s just exciting to know you can count on them instead of worrying if they’re going to have a bad day.”
The mission for sophomore Morgan McCullough and junior Katie Martini will be to push each other to give Valley Center valuable scores from the fifth and sixth runner positions.
“The difference between finishing third place and fifth place is how strong you are all the way through your lineup,” Thiessen said. “And right now, I believe we’re the closest we’ve ever been to being strong all the way through.”
It’s a motivated team ready for the first challenge of the season at their own meet on Tuesday at the Kansas Coliseum. Even Wedekind is convinced she has something left to prove in her final season after winning state her first two seasons then finishing second as a junior.
“I want to get better and faster so I have a chance at redeeming myself this season,” said Wedekind. “I’m still recovering from stress fractures (from last spring), but I really am wanting to improve on where I was last year and the last three years.”