KEARNEY -- The Kearney High boys are moving up through the pack.
Monday, at the University of Nebraska at Kearney High School Invitational, the defending Class A state champions emerged from the pack.
With a typical Kearney-like finish -- five runners between seventh and 19th place -- the Bearcats won the 17-team meet at the Kearney Country Club. Kearney scored 57 points to edge Lincoln Southwest by five points. Fremont was a distant third with 76 points.
“This is essentially the preview of the state meet with the exception of a couple kids or a couple teams, so we’re pretty happy now,” said KHS coach Luke Garringer, whose team has been working to overcome the loss of Jacob Olsen and Nolan Zimmer, who finished 1-2 at state two years ago and in the top five last year.
Millard West’s Joe Harter won the race by more than 12 seconds, finishing in 15 minutes, 44.1 seconds. North Platte’s Wyatt McGuire finished second with Mohamad Hamdan of Lincoln North Star in third.
Tim Smith led the Kearney entry with a seventh-place finish at 16:20.7. Teammates Davis Behle (ninth), Keaton Lewis (10th) and Dillon Graf (12th) crossed the finish line in the next 14 seconds.
“Our middle guys … they really made that jump up to that next level of guys, which got us to where we are now,” Garringer said.
Casey Berg in 19th place rounded out the scoring entry for the Bearcats, who challenged Lincoln Southwest last week and a came up a point short.
“Thursday in Lincoln I thought they were far better than us going into that race. … For our kids to come within one point, I was pretty pleased,” Garringer said.
But it’s clear the Bearcats will have to run well to stay close.
“We all have to run our best on the same day and there’s no room for error,” Garringer said.
Kearney’s next meet is the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference meet Friday in Scottsbluff. Scottsbluff won the Class B portion of Monday’s meet.
“I’m thinking toward the conference meet now. I’m watching Scottsbluff here, and they’re pretty darn good,” Garringer said.