Senior Will Kuenne knew just where he needed to be to medal in last week’s Class C state cross country meet. Here, he finishes in 14th place between a pair of runners to earn his state meet medal. (Johnson Publications photo)

Kaley Hauxwell overcame a mid-season hamstring injury to qualify for the state meet and finish in 32nd as she strides her way to the finish line. (Johnson Publications photo)

Sophomore Madison Brown uses a cup of water not for a drink but to douse herself two miles into Friday’s Class C girls race. In her first year out for cross country, Brown finished 21st in the state meet. (Johnson Publications photo)

Kuenne brings home medal from state cross country

    This year’s state cross country meet last Friday took on different meanings for seniors Kaylee Hauxwell and Will Kuenne.
    For Hauxwell, her goal went from winning a medal at the state meet to just qualifying for the state meet.
    That’s because a hamstring injury in late September, her first real injury as a Longhorn, threatened to keep her from qualifying for the fourth straight year.
    Fortunately, the injury began to heal and at districts, Hauxwell fulfilled her goal of being a four-time state qualifier.
    Had the injury not occurred, Coach Carl Zuege said she had a legitimate shot at medalling at the state meet.
    At the UNK meet Sept. 25, which is run on the state meet course at the Kearney Country Club, she finished 16th with a 21:06.05.    
    Friday, Hauxwell finished 32nd overall with a time  of 21.48.1. She would have needed better than 21:05.7 to earn a medal.
    Zuege said there’s no question the injury set her back and kept her from running as sharp as she was at the UNK meet. She would have been in the mix, he added.
    “We were proud of her just getting here. She toughed it out at districts. She was only about 80 percent but made it work and got here,” he said.
    For Kuenne, his goal was to win a medal at state his senior year.
    Four years of dedicated work paid off for Kuenne, who ran a 17:55.9 over the 5K course to finish 14th and earn that coveted state medal. The top 15 individuals earn medals at state.
    The suspense began to mount after the race as Kuenne finished in a pack at the finish line. That made it hard to figure out where he finished. Longhorn supporters had him finishing anywhere from 11th to 18 before the final results were posted.
    Kuenne said he knew where he was position-wise during the race and was certain he’d medalled.
    “We’re really proud of him. He ran the race he needed to,” Zuege said.
    With a 5:28 split at the one mile mark, Kuenne was running in 24th. By the time he’d reached the two-mile mark, he’d moved up to ninth with a time of 11:11 with a 5:43 split in the second mile.
    “At that point, it’s survival. It’s hanging on,” Zuege said. “There’s a lot of good quality runners in the field.”
    Zuege credited Kuenne’s dedication to the sport the last four years. “There’s talent there but he’s a little bit of a self-made guy, too,” the coach noted.
     “He set a goal to medal his senior year at state and he got it done. So that’s really nice,” Zuege said. “You just want to end on the highest note you can and I think he did.
Brown 21st in first state meet
    This marks the first year sophomore Madison Brown came out for cross country.
    Not only did she improve throughout the year but she claimed a sixth place finish at districts to qualify for her first state meet.

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