KINGMAN - The cross country season is in high gear for Kingman High, and the Bulldogs are making strides toward the state championship meet.
KHS raced in the Ray Wherley Invitational last Saturday, and the Bulldogs held their own. The girls finished sixth out of 17 teams, and the boys were 10th.
"They're all pushing each other to get better," KHS coach Anne Bathauer said. "This is a great group of kids to work with. They're young, they listen and they learn from each other."
The girls team dropped 12 minutes off of their total time from last year's Wherley Invitational. Sophomore Paige Cardiff, who finished third over the 2.5-mile course in 18:03, led the Lady Bulldogs.
"Paige is burning it up," Bathauer said. "She always asks me who are the girls to beat, and I have to tell her that she is. Paige is one of those people who are quiet, but they know she's out there."
KHS' next three runners in order of finish were freshman. Katie Tarr came in 26th, Olivia Anderson 28th and Lexi Bathauer was 40th.
"All three of these girls are identical," the coach said. "Lexi went out a little hard, and she'll have to get her pacing down."
Junior Heather Paulsteiner came in 59th at 22:27, freshman Rachel Fondren was 62nd and sophomore Vanessa Ozanne was 68th.
"Last year, my second runner finished in the 22s, and this year I had all of my top five there or better," Bathauer said. "Their improvement has been huge. What they do need to know is that if they can talk to me during a race, they can go harder."
Boys speed up
The boys improved on last year's time by nine minutes running against some of the top teams in the state, including Phoenix Alhambra. The Lions are ranked No. 6 in the nation.
"That's a huge amount of time for a team to drop," Bathauer said. "I'm really pleased with how they ran. Everyone that ran last year had a time drop this year."
Senior Jesse Peterson led the Bulldogs with a 32nd place finish in 18:46 over 3.1 miles. David Haun took 44th, Shaun Wootten 53rd, Patrick Webb 66th, Preston Hammond 76th, Kevin Gibelyou 88th and Jesus Lozoya came in 91st.
Wootten dropped more than two minutes off his time from a year ago, and the hard-working sophomore seems to have a big future in cross country ahead of him.
"Look what summer running does," Bathauer said about Wootten. "Summer running makes champions, and Shaun was very committed this summer."
The Bulldogs didn't have a freshman run in the 19s last season, but Webb did it for KHS this season in 19:48.
KHS runs in the high altitude Saturday when the Bulldogs take part in the Four Corners Invitational in Flagstaff. It's another meet where the Bulldogs can expect to compete with the state's best.
"We'll be racing fast people," Bathauer said. "Nothing like running against the fastest runners at every meet. But when you run against the top, you can set goals. I'd like a top 10 finish from both teams."