KEARNEY — Conestoga just restored its high school cross country team last year, but one year later, the program has a state champion.
On Friday at the state meet, Conestoga sophomore Danie Parriott won the Class C race at the Kearney Country Club. Her time for the 5,000-meter race was 19 minutes, 40 seconds. Finishing 10 seconds later, in second place, was Malcolm senior Logan Thomas.
Parriott was surprised to win, because she’d never gone under 20 minutes in a race.
“This means a lot. I’m so surprised,” Parriott said.
She won her final three meets of the season.
Parriott won by 10 seconds, but she didn’t feel comfortable at the finish.
“I was like, ‘I need to kick it in now because she’s going to catch me.' It was stressful,” Parriott said.
She said she got a boost from a large group of supporters from Conestoga that attended the race and swarmed around her after she won.
Conestoga coach Sean Trampe helped restart the program in 2018.
“They had cross country before, but in the late ’90s it went away,” Trampe said. “There were a couple of years where they had a co-op with Plattsmouth (for cross country), but then it fell apart.”
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Conestoga had one previous state champion in the sport, when Kari Shields won Class C in 1988.
Trampe was already at the school as the wrestling coach. During high school at Ord, he was a state champion wrestler and also ran cross country. He was at Conestoga for about five years before the cross country program got going again.
“A school our size, it seemed crazy not to have a team to begin with, and I knew we had some pretty good runners in the school and I wanted to see what they could do at this level, and so far we’ve held our own,” Trampe said. “Hopefully that cements our status a little bit at school.”
Some of the parents were instrumental in getting the program back also, Trampe said.
There were nine runners out for the boys and girls teams last year. The girls team qualified for state and finished sixth, and the program even got a state medal when Bella Hogue finished fourth.
This year there were 23 runners out, and two qualified for state.
Parriott made a big improvement after finishing 23rd at state last year.
Trampe said it’s difficult to put in perspective what it’s like to have a state champion in just the second season.
“I’m still trying to come to terms with it,” Trampe said. “We knew Danie was really good, and she’s had a good season. The last few weeks she’s kind of found a new gear and we thought she had as good of chance as anybody else. We just kind of talked about race strategy and starting fast and making people have to catch up to her. She’s a really good runner from the front, and it worked out well.”
Lincoln East’s state championship-winning team score of 39 points was the best in Class A girls in 18 years, when Lincoln Southeast won with 35 points. The team score in Class A is determined by the finishes of a team’s top-five runners, with each team having seven runners in the race. East had a remarkable 2-4-9-13-14 finish.