CLASS 5A STATE: Aquinas Sweeps Boys and Girls Titles

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A much anticipated battle between St. Thomas Aquinas and St. James Academy never really materialized in the Class 5A girls state championship race as Aquinas turned the tables on a team that had beaten it twice this season.

St. James Academy was not able to put together the tight pack that has been its signature during its rise to the top of the state ranks this year. Aquinas put its fifth runner in front of St. James' fourth runner to run away with its fifth consecutive Class 5A girls title.

St. Thomas Aquinas sophomore Olivia Sovereign -- state runner-up last year -- won the 5A crown this year with a time of 19:28. She beat last year's state champ -- her teammate, Margaret Pigott, who put on a strong kick to place second in 19:39. Mill Valley's Britton Nelson was third in 19:51, followed by Great Bend's Karen Razo (19:55) and St. James' Carlie Yunger.

"I don't believe it," a soft-spoken Sovereign said afterwards. "I had a really rough season and it just feels amazing to be up here now.

"It's awesome," Pigott said. "I'm just really glad to have a teammate in front of me. I know that Olivia was not feeling good most of the season so I was running by myself for most of the season, but I'm really glad to have her back."

St. James Academy, which had posted pack times of 18 seconds at league two weeks ago and 28 seconds at regionals last week, wasn't able to keep the pack intact this week. The squad had a pack time of 1:10, which allowed several runners to add team points to their final score.

"They are the biggest rivalry for our school," Sovereign said. "We just wanted to come out and beat them, but if we didn't, as long as we tried our hardest, it would be good."

Pigott, too, showed appreciation for the St. James' squad.

"In previous years, we've been on top and have not had a lot of teams come and try to compete against us (in Class 5A), so it's kind of different for us this year," Pigott said. "We've had to work a lot harder and fight for each other because we've had a team that was so close to us."

St. Thomas Aquinas swept the team titles for the third year in a row when the boys posted a surprisingly easy win over Mill Valley and a surprising Andover squad. Aquinas put up a dominating 38 point score while Mill Valley was second with 103 and Andover had 114.

The Aquinas boys also posted a 1-2 finish as Will Cole won the individual title 15:49, and Alex Gill was second in 15:52. Cole later received the Bob Timmons Award for posting the day's top time at Rim Rock.

"I'm tired right now, but really happy," Cole said afterwards. "Me and Alex we go back and forth every single meet. It's great in training and it's great when we come out and race and do really well."

Cole announced just four days earlier that he would be attending the University of Notre Dame next year to continue his career. The Saints, though, will first run at the Nike Cross Regionals in Sioux Falls, SD in mid-November. And then there's little thing of track season still to come.

Salina South senior Josh Reed placed third at this year's meet, finishing in a time of 16:06 to hold off Andover's Alex Moen (16:09) and Great Bend's Kerby Depenbusch (16:10), who is the only one among the top five who is not a senior this year.