For Marion High School Warrior cross-country runner Jordan Hett, Saturday was a day of threes.
Hett finished third at the Class 3A state championship meet at Rim Rock Farm near Lawrence, his best finish in three career trips to the state championship.
Hett earned his way to the state meet Oct. 22 by finishing fourth at the state’s toughest regional at Lake Afton, which also produced state champion Cory Donley of Salina-Sacred Heart and runner-up Cordell Goering of Trinity Catholic of Hutchinson. Hett’s time at Lake Afton was at least 19 seconds faster than the winners of the other three regional meets.
“If you look at our regional, it’s at the top of the state, so if they can compete in our regional, they can compete here,” Marion head coach Rebecca Hofer said.
His experience at the regional meet provided Hett with the strategy he used at the state event.
“I just tried to stay up with the top three guys,” Hett said. “Downhill, I tried to keep up with those guys that were right there in front of me. I was just trying to push as hard as I could.”
Hett had to withstand a challenge from Belle Plaine’s Tyler Jantz in the final stretch, finishing with a time of 17 minutes, 13 seconds, an effort that drew praise from Hofer.
“There’s been a couple of times he kicked and at the very end he dropped back,” Hofer said. “The fourth-place guy almost caught him at the end, but he kicked it in and had a great finish.”
Hofer also had good things to say about Hett’s preparation in the week leading up to the race.
“He did a great job. He’s very easy to work with, and he’s a hard worker,” Hofer said.
“The first couple of days we did some stuff up at the track,” Hofer said. “We did some timed miles, and all his timed miles were under six minutes. The last couple of days we did easier runs because I wanted to save his energy for today.”
Rim Rock Farm, the home course for the University of Kansas cross-country team, is laid out on three levels of hilly terrain, which presented the 104 competitors with their toughest challenge of the year.
“You can get faster times on other courses because they’re a lot smoother, but you have to be strong to get up those hills and be really determined,” Hofer said.
Hett improved three places from his sixth-place finish at the 2010 Class 3A state championship, which in turn was three places better than his 2009 finish.
Hofer noted Hett will have one more season to improve his placement.
“One more year — all my juniors have one more year,” Hofer said. “I hope the whole team can be here next year. That’s my goal.”