Junior Thomas Andersen helped his Parkway West cross-country team win first place by capturing medalist honors in the recent Paul Enke Invitational.
Andersen was the medalist with a time of 17 minutes, 21.90 seconds in the race held at Sioux Passage Park in North County.
“Thomas Andersen ran a great race,” Coach Kevin John said. “His time was not one of his best, but I thought he looked as strong as ever…I didn’t really think about if he had a chance to win or not, but I did expect that he would be one of the top runners in the area this season.”
The Longhorns finished first with 46 points to beat Parkway South by three points. That marked Parkway West’s second consecutive first-place finish in a meet. The squad previously claimed the top spot in the Stan Nelson Invitational.
John said his squad built on what it did in the earlier meet.
“Honestly, the only thing we talked about after Stan Nelson was that we needed to make sure nothing changed about our process,” John said. “The things that made us successful at Stan Nelson would also make us successful the rest of the season.”
Sioux Passage is a tough track for runners.
“The course is extremely difficult,” John said. “It is much harder than most of the other courses we race on. I want the kids to embrace the challenge of running on the course.”
Beating Parkway South and Lafayette was extremely important to his Longhorns, John said.
“It was our first chance to race against Lafayette and Parkway South, who both have good teams and are in our district,” John said. “It was good to race against them and the scores were very close, so it was a good experience.
“South and Lafayette are both strong teams and district rivals. It was good to race them regardless of the outcome, but it did take all seven of our runners to make the very tight victory possible.”
Parkway West has not raced often in the Enke Invitational.
“Last year was the first year that we have attended the meet for at least the last 12 years,” John said.
For the race, Andersen followed his coach’s guidance.
“Thomas did what I asked him to do in the first mile, which was to stay relaxed up the ‘Manmaker’ and then use the rest of the first mile to get into good position,” John said. “Thomas took the lead somewhere in the second mile. He told me afterward he had wanted to really push that mile. He had a pretty comfortable lead for the final 1.1 miles.”
Despite winning the big meet, Andersen did not wildly celebrate his accomplishment. That didn’t surprise John.
“Thomas is a really humble guy, so he did not have a lot to say about winning,” John said. “I think he was proud and excited.”
John, however, was pleased with Andersen’s performance.
“I was at the top of the ‘Manmaker’ waiting to see the runners pop into sight for the final loop when I saw Thomas had the lead,” John said. “It was pretty exciting and I was happy for him. He has been a really good runner for us as a freshman and sophomore, but I was hoping to see him really become a force this season. This was confirmation that he is taking that next step.”
Senior Ryan Caton was in seventh at 18:09.40 for the Longhorns. Fellow senior Dawson Ren was just behind in eighth at 18:15.60.
The other Longhorns turned in solid efforts. Senior Vincent Malpocker was 19th at 18:40. Junior Caleb Levy was 21st at 18:43.40, Senior Jonah Yates was 24th at 18:54.50 and senior Calvin Kellogg was 25th at 18:55.50.
John said his squad didn’t realize it had won first as a team initially.
“Honestly, we thought we had been beat,” John said. “So, the reaction after finding out we won was pretty muted. I think we all realized we were lucky to win and that we have more work to do.”
John is excited about the prospects for his team.
“This is one of the best groups to work with that I have had,” John said. “These guys are so positive and hardworking, and what I love most about them is that they have had to earn every bit of success in this sport. Our seniors were not great natural talents early in their career. It has taken four years of consistent hard work and positive attitudes to get to this point.”