The first full weekend of the 2018 cross country season in
Kansas is in the books, with plenty of familiar faces leading the way and a
handful of surprises.
Perhaps no runner made a bigger year-to-year jump, however, than Washburn Rural's Jaybe Shufelberger, who put up the top girl's time in Kansas this weekend in winning the Greg Wilson Classic in 18:33.60.
Shufelberger, a senior, has steadily progressed the last three years, most recently earning state medals in the 1600 (6th), 3200 (8th) and cross country (12th). But it was probably hard for some to see the leap she made at the Greg Wilson, which is hosted by St. Thomas Aquinas and largely considered the most competitive meet in Kansas during the opening weekend of cross country.
Ethan Marshall of St. Thomas Aquinas, a senior and the defending class 5A state champ, was the top Kansas runner, finishing fourth in 15:40.1 - 18 seconds better than he ran at this meet a year ago. His time also is the best in Kansas right now, and the 42nd best time in the United States, according to the current U.S. MileSplit rankings.
In fact, the Greg Wilson Classic featured the top five times in Kansas on the first weekend, and 7 of the top 10. After Marshall were Sam Hubert of DeSoto (16:05.7), Reece Jones of St. Thomas Aquinas (16:05.8), Jackson Caldwell of Olathe North (16:09.4) and Jack Terry of Mill Valley (16:13.9).
It was a pretty exciting team race at the Greg Wilson Classic, as well. The boys' division went to Rockhurst with 54 points, but three-time defending state champ St. Thomas Aquinas was second with 73. Class 6A state champ Olathe North placed third at 101 and class 5A runner-up Mill Valley was fourth at 118. That's some firepower going head-to-head at an early-season meet.
The girls' team title went to Mill Valley, the state runner-up in class 5A last year. They beat last year's class 5A third place team, St. Thomas Aquinas, by a score of 41-55. Missouri powerhouse Blue Springs was third at 87 and class 6A girls defending state champion Shawnee Mission North was fourth at 98.
The best times in Kansas not run at the Greg Wilson Classic were put up in Manhattan where a couple of the best in class 6A won their home meet. Manhattan's Daniel Harkin - seventh in the class 6A meet a year ago -- won on the hilly Warner Park course with a time of 16:15.8, while Clara Mayfield - state runner-up in 6A last year - won the girls' race with the second best time in Kansas so far, 18:57.5. Manhattan won both team races, as well.
Taylor Briggs of Chapman -- who won state titles in cross country, the 1600 and 3200 as a freshman -- kicked off her sophomore year with another dominating win. She cruised to first place at the Abilene Invitational with a time of 19:31.6. Collin Oswalt of Central Christian won the boys' race in 16:37, a surprising 56 seconds better than Aaron Modrow of Chapman, who was fifth at the class 4A state championships last year.
Two of the best in class 3A served notice that they're ready to run for titles this year. 2016 state champion Owen Pearce of Kingman won the Clearwater Invitational in 16:31.2, just a few seconds ahead of teammate Teagan Flanagan (16:35.1). They were more than a minute ahead of the rest of the field.
Blue Valley West's girls showed off a pretty good 1-2 punch at the Wichita State JK Gold Classic, with senior Kalea Chu winning the race in 19:46, and junior Bella Call just a couple seconds behind. Chu was fourth at the class 6A state meet last year; Call was 83rd at state last year, and her time was 38 seconds faster than she's ever run in cross country.
Their 1-2 finish keyed a whopping 60-point victory in the team standings over Maize South. Blue Valley West had six of the top 9 in the girls' race.
Two-time class 6A state champion Trent Cochran of Gardner-Edgerton kicked off the 2018 campaign with a win at the Wichita State JK Gold Classic, clocking 16:43.8. He outdueled El Dorado's Ezekiel Kemboi and Maize South's Britt Magnuson, who finished in 16:46.2 and 16:46.5. Asher Moen of Andover was fourth in 16:49.4.
Helen Giefer has her sights on adding a state cross country title to her career. The Trego Community senior won the 3200 meter state title last May - her first-ever high school state win - and is a strong contender for the class 2A cross country title this fall. She kicked off her season with a solid 19:58.1 to win the Norton Invitational.
There was an eye-opener in the girls' race at the Tescott Invitational this past week - not so much for who won the race, but for who didn't win the race. Two-time class 1A state champion Autumn Princ of Sylvan Grove, a junior seeking her third straight state crown this Fall, placed fourth in a time of 22:33 - about four minutes slower than her best-ever time in cross country. Whether Princ is injured or just not yet in running shape will be a story that merits watching as the season moves along.
Here's a runner to keep an eye on in class 4A this season: Fallon Russell of Bishop Miege. She won the St. Mary's Invitational in a time of 20:43, the 21st best time among Kansas girls this week. Russell placed 12th at the class 4A state championships last year.