Lexington’s Yanni VasquezGarcia

Lexington’s Yanni VasquezGarcia (317) rounds a curve behind Bennington’s Keaton Miller (290) and in front of his teammate Cyrus Rhea (315).

KEARNEY — The program only lists the champions.

Omaha Skutt 2017 Class B boys state cross country champion. Omaha Skutt 2018 Class B boys cross country champion. And now, Omaha Skutt, 2019 Class B boys state cross country champion.

That didn’t leave a lot of joy in the Lexington camp.

"We run to break the Skutt era and have a different experience," said Lexington coach Sam Jilka.

But for the third straight year, the Minutemen had the same experience, accepting the runner-up trophy after Friday’s Nebraska High School Cross Country Championships at the Kearney Country Club.

All six Lexington runners finished the 5-kilometer course under the 18-minute mark.

Senior Yanni VasquezGarcia set the pace with a fourth-place finish. Senior Cyrus Rhea finished 11th. Junior Elmer SoteloMunoz was 23rd. Sophomore Sean Worthman 26th, senior Alexis Hernandez 30th and sophomore Garrett Converse 45th.

The three seniors — VasquezGarcia, Rhea and Hernandez — have been Lexington’s No. 1 runner at different times throughout the year. Rhea ran his best race on the Kearney Country Club course, Jilka said, and "Yanni looked fantastic. He ran like he’s been doing recently. ... Alexis struggled. He had the flu last week and it knocked him down. you could tell that.

"Our fours and fives set PRs (personal records). They just weren’t up there far enough to make a dramatic difference."

VasquezGarcia has been one of Lexington’s primary runners throughout his career but has only recently stepped out of the shadows to carry the banner for the squad.

"The first couple years he struggled mentally. He would emotionally break down in a race so you had to work through that," Jilka said. "Two years ago, he barely finishes a race or in a sense, gives up.

"At about midseason this year, we had a breakthrough where it started to click. He started to have a little bit of success and realized he does have that ability. He just has to stay strong."

He won the Central Conference championship and the B-4 district in the last two weeks of the regular season.

"He has a tremendous gift. I kept telling him, ‘You’ve got it, you just have to follow through with it,’ ... These last three or four meets, he knew what to do. He knew how to execute it. He followed through and he did it. Where in the past, he hoped it would happen, he just didn’t make it happen," Jilka said.

All five of Skutt’s scoring runners finished in the top 16 as the Skyhawks produced a winning margin of 32 points. Seward finished third 23 points behind Lexington.

"One of these years, we’ll knock off Skutt," Jilka said. "Chasing that state championship is part of our tradition, part of what we want to do. To make it happen, they have to get some other kids to join them to work hard.

"These senior boys were at state four years in a row and they’ve been runner-up three years in a row, which is pretty incredible. But, sometimes, you just want to go a step further. It will be another group and another day that will get that chance."

Lex girls run fourth

Gering, sweeping the second, third and fourth places, easily won the Class B girls title.

Lexington, paced by two sophomores and a freshman, took fourth.

Sophomore Kennadi Ureste placed 10th with sophomore Kayla Barrios 13th, less than six seconds behind Ureste.

"Our front two did really well. They set PRs and finally ran the course the way they’re capable of," Jilka said. "We made a mistake last week of not going out hard enough and adjusting. Today we got out fast, and they did it. They did what they needed to do."

buck.mahoney@kearneyhub.com

@HubSports_Buck

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