Being a senior, Liberty’s Ryan Flood has learned a thing or two about area cross country courses over the years. He learned a hard lesson the last time he ran on Raymore-Peculiar’s flat yet winding course: Tempting as it may be, don’t zoom out too fast.
“We all died going out fast last year, so I was told not to win the first mile,” Flood said. “But on the second and third mile, be sure to win those and come out with a win.”
It’s a strategy that worked well for Flood and Liberty when they returned to that course for Saturday’s 30-team Ray-Pec Invitational. This time he stayed with the pack over the first mile before pulling away for a comfortable victory, covering the 5-kilometer course in in 16 minutes, 19.30 seconds. A two-time state medalist, Flood finished almost 13 seconds ahead of runner-up Preston Wheeler of Staley.
Flood’s victory also powered Liberty to the Large School Division team title, the Blue Jays third in as many meets.
Flood, who also hasn’t lost a race this season, last ran the Ray-Pec course in last fall’s KC Metro Championship. With a wide starting line that bottlenecks quickly into a sharp right turn, runners frequently try to break out fast to avoid the congestion. In that race, Flood and Blue Jays pushed hard early and paid for it in the end.
“Everybody wants to get out fast, but there is such a thing as going out too fast and not having enough for the middle or the end,” Liberty cross country coach Tim Nixon said. “That’s what we talked about today.”
Flood took that advice to heart, as did his teammates. Helped by a 13th-place finish from junior Logan Bly and a 24th-place finish from Ryan Mata, Liberty finished with 103 team points, four better than runner-up Park Hill South in the 19-team Large School Division. The Blue Jays opened the season by winning the Liberty North Invitational and won their own meet the week before taking Ray-Pec.
“I just can’t ask for more,” Nixon said. “These guys have put a lot into it. And when you put a lot into something you’re supposed to get a lot out of it. We’re trying to make that happen.”
Liberty also had the individual girls champion in Madelyn Hill, who held off Ray-Pec’s Miranda Dick down the stretch to win in 18:33.80.