THE PLAINS — Kenzie Konyar finished her career the only way she knows how.
The James Wood senior finished 11th to earn her fourth all-state medal in four years on Saturday at the Class 4 state girls’ cross country meet at Great Meadow. The top 15 runners earn all-state honors.
Adding to Konyar’s performance was the fact that she ran her fastest ever state time at Great Meadow. Konyar recorded a time of 18 minutes, 58 seconds.
“I think because it’s so windy, I wanted to go out with the lead pack and just kind of hang on to the back of the pack, let them do the work in the wind,” said Konyar on Saturday. “Through two miles, I felt pretty fresh, so I just went for it and felt good all the way through the end.”
That was obvious based on her time. It was eight seconds faster than her previous best state time at Great Meadow, which came in 2016 when she recorded a 19:06 to place 10th. Konyar also placed eighth in 2017 (19:14) and ninth in 2018 (19:21).
“It’s kind of amazing,” Konyar said. “Even the best runners, a lot of them can’t say they went [to states] all four years. To be here all four years [and earn all-state honors all four years], I’m really happy with it.
“I knew coming in this was going to be my last race in high school, so I just wanted to give it everything I had, which I definitely did.”
Konyar got to compete with her entire team for the first time at the state meet as well, and she helped the Colonels take fourth place, the highest finish in program history.
James Wood coach Mike Onda said the two-time Winchester Star Girls’ Runner of the Year (2016 and 2017) definitely meant a lot to the Colonels’ program.
“Today was a great way for her to finish the season, and to top off her four years here,” Onda said.
After winning the Class 4 Northwestern District and taking second in the region, the James Wood boys’ team arrived at Great Meadow with matching bleach-blond hairdos, with even Onda joining in on the look.
But Onda said the Colonels have been battling injuries for the past two weeks, and that played a role in their 10th-place showing among the 12 teams. Chris White, normally one of the team’s top five runners, wasn’t able to finish the race because of a hip injury. Ethan Bowman also struggled with a hip injury.
“They raced really well even though they were injured last week [at the Region 4C meet],” Onda said. “They just weren’t able to come back again.
“Sometimes [injuries] happen. They train really hard, you’re always pushing the limit. Sometimes you can keep it from becoming too much and sometimes you go over the edge with an injury and you’ve got to try and do what you can to try and rehab it or just shut it down.”
Onda said the boys’ team had a lot to feel good about, though. James Wood had not been to the state meet since 2003.
“I’m real proud of them,” Onda said. “They’re a young team with only one senior for the varsity side, so they’re looking real good for next season, too.”
Both Colonel programs hadn’t been to the state meet together since 1980.
MillbrookThe Pioneer boys had five runners finish between 43rd and 63rd and between 17:05 and 17:32 to take eighth.
Chris Simonelli led Millbrook at the district and region meets, but he was its No. 4 runner on Saturday because Shirk said he had an issue with a calf muscle. Shirk said it first bothered Simonelli a few weeks ago and they believe Saturday’s 40-degree temperate caused it to be an issue again.
“We had a good pack, and we showed that today,” Millbrook coach Kevin Shirk said. “They all ran really well.”
HandleyGrayson Westfall placed 20th in 16:31 in his final high school race.
“It’s been really, really fun at Handley,” Westfall said. “I’ve had a great time running and I’ve gotten to be really close friends with my teammates. That’s all I really could have asked for.”
Handley coach Mark Stickley liked what he saw from Westfall.
“I think Grayson ran great today,” Stickley said. “You hope for an outside shot at the top 15, but realistically I thought if he finished in the top 20 today and a ran a PR or close to it, he’d have to be real happy. He was right at his PR, so he really ran well. It was a great way to finish his season and career.”
Clarke CountyAt Green Hill Park in Salem at the Class 2 state meet, senior Kateri Thorne also finished her career off in style. She placed 15th in 20:46.70 to earn all-state honors and lead Clarke County to fourth as a team.
Clarke County coach Jeff Webster said Thorne was 26th after the first mile.
“That was just really special,” Webster said. “Kateri was kind of teetering back and forth with a couple of other runners for that final 15th [all-state] position, but she had a really strong finish and passed a girl with about 50 meters to go to claim that final spot. I was really happy with her.”
The team as a whole moved up during the race — Webster said chip timing had the Eagles tied for seventh after a mile and in sixth after two miles.
Thorne was one of six runners who had season-bests and one of five runners who had career-best performances ranging from 13 to 53 seconds on Saturday. Non-scoring runner Maria Sonoski also had a career-best time of 23:03.2. Ellen Smith was three seconds off a season-best despite battling a chest cold and finished in 23:22.8.
“It was just one of those seasons where the team kept progressing and kept improving,” Webster said.