The Rim Rock high school cross country meet is known around the Midwest as the premier regular-season meet. Runners travel from Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma among other states to compete with the Midwest’s best. More than 2,400 runners converge on the farm outside Lawrence to compete in three boys’ races and three girls’ races.
Runners converge on Rim Rock and set countless personal records
This was my first Rim Rock experience because the (famous-in-his-own-right) Chris Parker covered the meet in his time with CatchItKansas. It was big shoes to fill and honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure they would fit.
But off to Lawrence I went at six in the morning to watch six cross country races. I arrived there and my first thought was, ‘That’s a lot of port-a-potties.’ I walked around the course a little bit to get a feel for what I was doing and where I was. I scouted it as much as I could in the time I had to determine the spots I would shoot photos.
The atmosphere of seeing so many people in one place happy to be there was a fantastic experience. Valley Center’s Morgan Wedekind and Bishop Carroll’s Kaelyn Balch didn’t run in the same race, so that was a bit of a disappointment, but other than that, the day was great. The weather was beautiful and I got a ton of good photos.
The coolest thing I witnessed that day was Shawnee Mission West’s Alli Cash set a course record. As she ran along the horizon before entering the chute, everyone looked back at the clock, then back at her numerous times. As she came down the chute to finish her race, as I wrote in the story, it wasn’t a question of if she would set the course record of 14:13, but if she would finish in under 14 minutes.
She finished with a time of 13:59.3, a new course record and the first time a high school girl had ever run under 14 minutes on the course. Heather Bates of Colorado’s Pine Creek took second with the fifth-fastest time in course history with a time of 14:26.3.
It was the most challenging coverage I have ever done, but it was one of my best.
My other favorite day of coverage came at Rim Rock as well, with the 3, 5 and 6A state cross country championships. Going into the day, I knew the race of the day was the 5A girls’ state championship. The race was going to come down to Bishop Carroll’s Kaelyn Balch and Valley Center’s Morgan Wedekind. The two had gone head to head before, and it was always a great race. That day, however, nobody expected that great of a race.
Cash dominates, Wedekind and Balch duel at Rim Rock State Cross Country
Wedekind was on the horizon getting ready to enter the chute with a comfortable lead. She had all kinds of distance between herself and Balch, and I felt confident in saying that Wedekind was the 5A state champion.
Then Balch found strength. She turned on some afterburners, what was probably her fifth wind of the race, and went and caught Wedekind. There was no way Wedekind was going to simply fade back into her throbbing legs and lungs of fire.
She turned it on.
The two were in a dead heat coming down the final 400 meters. They were both in a dead sprint.
Approaching the finish line, neither runner had an edge. Both lunged forward to cross the finish line first and to the naked eye, it was impossible to tell the outcome. I snapped a photo right as the two crossed the line and I thought for sure I would be able to tell by the photo. I wasn’t.
The officials in the trailer-turned-timing-station spent at least fifteen minutes trying to determine a winner. A winner was finally determined and it was Balch, the Bishop Carroll standout, by 2/100ths of a second.
That was the best race I had ever seen and probably will ever witness. Simply fantastic.