by JON DYKSTRA The Iola Register | November 1, 2016
HUTCHINSON — The Allen Community College men's cross country team won their 5th straight Jayhawk East Conference championships and back to back Region 6 titles after placing 2nd three years in a row prior. Despite entering the race as underdogs to Butler Community College. Butler is currently the 4th ranked team in the country while Allen is ranked 7th.
"We were counted out after OSU meet 5 weeks ago, even though we were the region champion last year," Allen coach Vince DeGrado said. "I don't think they expected us to be up there. I know I was biased but I still felt like we were the favorites."
Allen sophomore and Wichita-native Ricardo Banuelos was the first runner from either school to cross the finish line with 26:04.41 to take third place. Despite the 3rd-place time both Banuelos and DeGrado expect his time to improve in two weeks at nationals.
"I didn't run my best," Banuelos said. "I didn't feel like my legs were underneath me... I'm kind of disappointed, but I'll get them at nationals. DeGrado said that Banuelos was affected by a heavy training load going into the race as he was preparing more for nationals than the regional.
"I probably should have given him his legs more, however I know where we want to be in 2 weeks."
"I told him after the race, we would not have won without you," DeGrado said. "But this was not about you and your performance, we were going to have your performance no matter what, you are a front-runner. It was about his teammates picking him up and that was how we were going to win."
Even with the disappointment in his time, Banuelos was still able to lead the Allen men and give them the early advantage on their rivals, but the Grizzlies quickly responded by having Boniface Kiptoo - a native of Eldoret, Kenya - finish in fourth place. However freshman Anthony stepped up big time and was able to get in front of their #2 runner while sophomore Philip Legemann was able to finished behind their #3. Allen freshman Anthony Glasgow finished fifth for Allen with a 26:21.4. Allen sophomore Philip Lageman, from Bowling Green, Mo., crossed the finish line in eighth place to make sure the two squads were neck-and-neck after three runners.
"This one was sweet, because of the rule changes where there are no international age limits or roster restrictions like their used to be so there are some teams with much older guys," DeGrado said. "I just have a hard time believing that a 22 to 24 year old man is just hanging around doing nothing then all of a sudden is a freshman in college running against 18 to 21 year olds." "Those are the rules and obviously, they are free to play by those rules but it seems for some programs it's easier to load up a roster and manage foreign talent. I think it should be about coaching and development, but to each their own it is what it is and I'll just have to work within the rules that are in place." DeGrado said.
Freshmen Paul Becker, another Wichita product, and Houston-native Ludreche Bouanga made sure that Allen was able to secure the region title by finishing right with each other in 14th and 15th respectively. Becker finished in 27:34.01 and Bouanga had a time of 27:36.14. "Paul stepped up BIG TIME for us, he hasn't had the freshman year I would have liked for him to have, however he came thru during a championship meet and has 2 more weeks to improve EVEN more. At the end of the day people only remember the end result, not the route it took to get to that result." DeGrado said.
Their finishes wrapped up the team race by locking Allen into a team score of 45, a number Butler couldn't match. The Grizzlies finished in second with a 55, but Allen's sixth and seventh runners — Alejandro Ruiz 18th and Ben Lucier in 19th — were able to cross the line before Butler's fifth and final team-scoring runner was able to.
"Our top-seven just stepped up," DeGrado said. I know today was our day and obviously, I can't control what another team does. The performance will surely raise the Red Devils in the national ranks before the national meet in two weeks in El Dorado.
"We've got 2 more weeks to get better and see if we can sneak into a podium spot, if I know that coach over at Butler I know he'll have his guys ready to respond and get a little payback, and he'll coach them up and get things rolling again." DeGrado said.
The Allen runners performance was good enough to dominate the Jayhawk East portion of the race where Banuelos, Glasgow and Lagemann finished 1-2-3 and Becker and Bouanga were fifth and sixth. Ruiz and Lucier finished in the top-10 as well with eighth- and ninth-place times respectively.
The Red Devils crushed all the competition that the rest of the conference presented with Johnson County Community College finishing 40 points behind Allen, 17-57.
"I was worried about Johnson County because that coach hadn't really showed his hand yet and I was sure how it would go against him. I knew a lot of other schools would overlook Johnson due to his teams not being ranked as high, but that coach has been in the coaching game for quite some time and I knew they'd be ready. DeGrado said.
"For me personally, this is my 11th year of coaching and I've gotten three region championships at Cowley in my four years there and I've gotten two here," DeGrado said. "This one is my favorite of all. This one hasn't been as stressful and its been so much fun. We were a family out there. The guys were cheering for the girls and the girls were cheering for the guys. It was just so much fun to be apart of that."
The Red Devil men will be in action Saturday, November 12th at the NJCAA National Cross Country Championships