Becoming the first girls’ team in six years to qualify for state cross country was the first step.
The group saw three runners finish in the top 50 in Lawrence last year. However, the focus quickly shifted to the two to three years ahead for a bustling young corps of runners.
Sophomores Bridget McAdam, Gretta McEntire, Abigail Monaghan and Vivian Kalb join junior Ashlyn Struble to give Derby part of arguably its deepest roster in program history.
“When we came in as freshmen, we did summer running together and saw each other’s times,” McAdam said. “We saw how close we all were, became friends and saw we were climbing higher and higher as we went through meets.”
While Struble is a year older, the four sophomores said the competition began before their Panther careers as they were split between Derby and
Derby North Middle Schools.
“Vivian and I were super competitive in middle school,” McEntire said. “I was kind of nervous once we got to high school but we became good friends and we still love competing with one another.”
Their success hasn’t come without obstacles as they adjust to high school cross country.
The four sophomores and their other classmates relied on each other as they saw bigger crowds and faster runners at their meets.
They’ve all now made the trip to Lake Afton twice to start the season, but one look at its infamous hill and they still admit it’s jaw-dropping. Not only does the annual Bishop Carroll season-opening meet fall at the end of August, but it requires runners to run up and down the steep hill twice.
With a boatload of heat and humidity, consider it initiation for cross country runners in the Wichita area.
The girls were quick to add that it put a lump in their throats the first time they saw it, but it was a challenge worth embracing.
The Derby teams added a new event to their schedule this year, participating in the Olathe Twilight Invitational. The evening races ran 8:00 p.m. or later and were constructed around the Olathe District Activity Complex, finishing at a nearby high school.
It gave the Panther athletes a chance to measure themselves against the best runners along I-70 from Manhattan to the Kansas City metro.
Kalb ran her first of two sub 20-minute 5Ks in the trip up I-35. She’s the only Derby female to accomplish the feat.
On Sept. 28 of this season, the group was the highest finishers from Kansas inside the Crimson division at last week’s Rim Rock Farm Classic. Kalb, Monaghan and Struble each finished inside the top 35.
Last year, Struble said she tried to emphasize how difficult Rim Rock can be to prepare for. One year later, the group saw just how far it had come as it littered its trip to Lawrence with personal bests.
McAdam said half of the team had left after running not realizing how high they had finished in the standings.
“You see the pictures and only a few of us were there,” she said of the fun surprise. “They said, ‘you guys placed third,’ and we’re like, ‘we get a plaque and everything?’”
With only two meets remaining before regionals, the Derby girls are ready to see where they stand against area 6A schools. Last October, Kalb, Struble, and Monaghan finished second, third and fourth, respectively, at the Cessna Activity Center.
They’ll again have their regional meet at CAC in southeast Wichita later this month.
The course offers plenty of familiarity, but Kalb said the work put into the season includes months of preparation through the spring and summer.
“We have a very good chance at being an awesome team these next couple of years,” Kalb said. “We’ve just had to get everyone gathered [year-round] and run.”
After running at Rim Rock Farms for a third time in two years last weekend, the group is eager to continue to cut their personal bests in the coming weeks and get back to Lawrence.
“I took mental notes as I was running, understanding [different points of the track] and this is where I’ll need to pick it up,” Kalb said. “I know where I’ll need to go for it and since running is mental, we’ll have plans going into the [upcoming] races.”
|Bishop Carroll Invite (9/7)||20:35||22:08||23:09||20:53||20:53|
|Olathe Twilight Invite (9/14)||19:54||21:50||22:39.80||20:13.10||20:34.70|
|Wichita SE Invite (9/21)||20:28||22:10.90||23:21.40||21:07.60||21:20.00|
|Rim Rock Classic (9/28)||19:49||21:10.30||23:36.90||20:15.30||20:40.70|