NIKE PREVIEW: Kansas stars slated to run Sunday

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Girard's Cailie Logue highlights a star-studded field of Kansas athletes who will compete in the Nike Cross Regionals Heartland meet this Sunday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The meet draws the best teams and individuals from seven states - Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin - who are competing for a chance to run in the Nike Cross Nationals Dec. 3 in Portland, Ore.


The top two teams in the regional meet qualify for Nike Nationals, as well as the top five individuals not on qualifying teams.


Logue was the Heartland regional runner-up in 2015 en route to a third place finish at the Nike Nationals. Two weeks ago, she became just the fifth Kansas runner ever to win four state cross country titles when she topped the field in Class 4A.


The Iowa State-bound Logue also sits No. 2 on the Saucony Flo50 rankings and is considered one of the top contenders for the national crown in three weeks. In early October, she clocked 16:45 for 5K at the Baldwin Invitational. Among her competitors on Sunday will be a future Iowa State teammate, North Dakota state champion Karly Ackley.


Molly Born, a junior at Shawnee Mission Northwest and the Kansas Class 6A state champion this year, missed out on a spot to nationals by just one place last year. She was sixth in the Heartland Regional, just 11 seconds out of the fifth spot.


She has run a season-best 5K of 17:10 this year, which again puts her in the mix for a spot to the national meet.


Another Kansas runner with a fair shot at qualifying for nationals is Lawrence Free State's Emily Venters, runner-up to Born in the 6A meet. Venters placed 11th in the Heartland Regional in 2014, and 33rd in 2015, but has run a season PR of 17:53 that would get her near the Top 10 on Sunday.


The girls championship race will be run just before 2 p.m. on Sunday. The field features the top 8 finishers from the Kansas Class 6A state meet, as well as the state team champions in class 6A (Lawrence Free State), and 5A (St. Thomas Aquinas). Class 6A runner-up Shawnee Mission North and Class 6A third place Manhattan are also scheduled to run.


The Aquinas girls, who won their fifth consecutive state title two weeks ago, placed third in this meet a year ago, just one spot away from qualifying for nationals. That said, the Saints don't list a full team in the championship division this year, so may not be up for a high team finish this time.


Class 5A girls champion Olivia Sovereign of St. Thomas Aquinas and Class 3A champ Celia Biel of Hutchinson Trinity are in the field Sunday. Aimee Davis of Clearwater, runner-up to Logue in 4A who has a season PR of 18:22, also will compete.


In the boys' championship race, class 5A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas has its eyes focused on qualifying a team for Nike Nationals. The squad has put up an impressive season, led by individual state champion Will Cole and runner-up Alex Gill.


The Saints have looked the part of contenders, particularly at the end of the season when they turned what appeared to be a rough-and-tumble fight for the Class 5A title into a snoozer - winning at state by 65 points. Aquinas had a team average of 16:21 for 5K at state; if they can improve their pack and lower that average a little bit, they could be booking a trip to Portland in December.


Olathe East, the class 6A state champs this year, will run at the Heartland Regional - their team name at Nike is "Rabid Jackalopes" -- as will third place finisher Manhattan.


Other boys' individuals to watch include Spring Hill's Dylan Brenneman and Smoky Valley's Calvin Shannon, who posted Kansas' fastest 5K times this year (15:26 and 15:27, respectively), as well as Salina South's Josh Reed (3rd in 5A) and Great Bend's Kerby Depenbusch (5th in 5A).


The championship races are the highlight of a day full of racing that includes the Rising Stars races for high school freshmen and sophomores; Open races for high school boys and girls; and a community race.


Sophomore Elizabeth Kettler of Hiawatha, runner-up in the class 3A girls state meet, stands a very good chance of placing high in the Rising Stars race.