Special to The Sun
The scenery changed, but the results were the same for the Deer Creek boys’ cross country team.
The Antlers cruised to their second-straight Class 5A state title Saturday at Edmond Santa Fe High School, while sophomore Bryce Balenseifen became the school’s sixth straight individual champion.
Deer Creek dominated the 5A field. They placed four runners in the top 10, and all seven finished in the top 25. The Antlers claimed the state title with 36 team points, finishing well ahead of runner-up Coweta (115) and third-place Tahlequah (144).
Head coach David Riden said this year’s title has a different feel, despite many of the same faces.
“There were four kids that were on it last year, but we graduated a lot of that senior class that was a big part of it,” Riden said. “This was the post-Taler Buck era. It was kind of like repeating, but it was kind of like doing it for the first time, all over again.”
Deer Creek also won back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007.
Balenseifen was a key part of last year’s title run, finishing sixth as a freshman, and had no trouble stepping into the lead role on Saturday. The sophomore enjoyed a large cushion as he crossed the finish line in 16:17. Tahlequah’s Zechariah Van Fleet was second with a time of 16:26.
Deer Creek’s Taler Buck won state the last three years. Dakota Buck won in 2008, and Adam Young claimed the 4A title in 2007.
Balenseifen was proud to carry on the Antler legacy. He said he got plenty of help last year running with Taler Buck.
“It’s just an incredible feeling to just build on what those guys started,” Balenseifen said. “I’d never run 5k races before last year, and guys like Blaine Powell and Taler Buck kind of took me under their wing.”
Balenseifen stayed with the pack through the early part of the race. He gradually pulled away on the second mile and finally shook Van Fleet on the last leg.
“Once we got past the tennis court I realized I had a little bit left,” Balenseifen said. “I saw that he (Van Fleet) was 10-15 yards behind me and I thought I was going to finish on top.”
Joining Balenseifen in the top 10 were Blaine Powell, Coleman Crawley and Chandler King. Powell finished eighth with a time of 16:52, Crawley was next with 16:54 and King rounded out the top 10 in 16:56.
Kyle Larson finished in 12th place with a time of 17:01, Devin Provines was 19th (17:17) and Grant Schatzman was 24th (17:28).
The 4A-6A state cross country championships were moved to Santa Fe from Mitch Park due to construction of a new aquatic center. Edmond North head cross country coach Kent Douglass said they were pleased with the turnout at Santa Fe, but hope to return to Mitch Park in the future.
Freshman Lewis leads way for Deer Creek girls at
Deer Creek High School has produced some talented girls runners in recent years. And the Lady Antlers appear to have another rising star in Rachel Lewis. The freshman capped an impressive rookie season with a seventh-place finish Saturday at the Class 5A state cross country meet at Santa Fe High School.
Lewis finished the winding course in 12:18. Jessic Humbree of Tahlequah won the race in 11:48.
“Rachel has really come on during the last month of the season and learned what she can do and how she can push herself,” Deer Creek coach David Riden said. “It’s been exciting to watch her grow as a runner and competitor. She has a great future.”
The Lady Antlers finished fifth in the team standings. They took fourth last year, and have finished in the top five in each of the last four seasons.
Metro Christian Academy won the 5A girls title with 59 points. Tahlequah was runner-up with 79, while Shawnee (104), Coweta (111) and Deer Creek (146) rounded out the top five.
Sheri Snyder was next through the gate for the Lady Antlers in 16th place, finishing in 12:38. Kelsie Hancock finished 27th (12:56), followed by Kaleigh Ewing 53rd (13:31), Kylee Martin 57th (13:36), Katy Ewing 66th (13:42) and Anne Nigg 80th (13:56).