WEEKLY PREVIEW: Bragging Rights Up For Grabs at League Meets Around the State

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We could debate this, but I tend to think that many schools in the state see this week as the one that they really want to win.

It's bragging rights week - league championships in every division. This is the week when athletes go against the kids from the next town or county, or even from just across town.

 

When these guys and gals head to the pool this summer, they'll probably see some of their competitors and, boy, it sure will be fun to say "We got you this year!"

 

Put another way, schools hang banners for two meets: State and League.

 

There are 42 league meets listed for Kansas this week, which means there will be 84 team champions and more than 700 individual champions. Uh, yeah, that's a lot of bragging rights.

 

So, buckle up tight and enjoy the week. It's go time...

 

SUNFLOWER LEAGUE

 

The league with the most intrigue in the state, by far, is the Sunflower League, which brings together teams from class 5A and 6A. You're likely to see many athletes competing at this meet who will be favorites for individual state titles later this month.

 

The Sunflower League also has a rich history of turning out team state champions. The class 6A girls champions have come from the Sunflower League for 11 years straight, and the league has had the 6A boys champion for 10 of the past 12 years.

 

The frontrunners for the girls team title this year are Olathe Northwest, Olathe South, and Shawnee Mission Northwest. On a good day, Lawrence Free State and Shawnee Mission East could pull the upset.

 

Shawnee Mission Northwest's Molly Born and Lawrence Free State's Emily Venters should meet in the distance races. Both are ranked in the top 10 nationally in the 3200 and 1600 meter runs. This will be the third time this year that they've gone head-to-head.

 

The girls meet will also feature the No. 2 ranked javelin thrower in the United States in Dana Baker of Olathe North, who has a season best of  164-2. In five of the seven field events, Sunflower League athletes have the No. 1 mark in class 6A.

 

The boys' chase comes down to Shawnee Mission Northwest and Leavenworth, though Shawnee Mission West may have an outside shot at the team title. It will be especially interesting in the sprints, where both Shawnee Mission Northwest and Leavenworth excel.

 

AROUND THE STATE....

 

Don't snooze on other league meets, however, because as we've seen the entire 2017 season, there's a lot of talent out there.

 

While the Sunflower League has won most of the state team titles the past dozen years, two Centennial League teams may be favored once the state meet comes in about 14 days.

 

Those two teams are Topeka's boys and Junction City's girls. Looking at virtual meets on KS MileSplit, those teams have a pretty impressive advantage in class 6A team scores.

 

Junction City is sprint-rich. They've also got a budding superstar in sophomore Kiena Newman, who is ranked No. 1 in class 6A in both the 100 meter hurdles and 300 meter hurdles. The Blue Jays could get a challenge at the Centennial League meet from Manhattan, which has won this meet for most of the past 10 years and has distance strength to match Junction City's sprint power.

 

Topeka's boys also rely on speed in the individual events, but also have the No. 1 ranked 4 X 100 relay team in Kansas. High jumper Richard Newman is one of three Centennial League athletes who have cleared 6-8 this season. Manhattan could challenge Topeka if they can score enough field event and distance points.

 

Bishop Carroll is a heavy favorite in the Greater Wichita League. Both the boys and girls teams could challenge 200 points if all goes well for them. Wichita East seems to be the closest challenger to Bishop Carroll's dominance.

 

A team that is going to make some noise at the state meet later this month is Pittsburg's girls. They should dominate the Southeast Kansas League meet; they enter with that league's top marks in 17 of 18 events.

 

St. Thomas Aquinas has been a heavy favorite for the class 5A boys state title since before this season began. Nothing has changed as the Saints have more than held their own against the best competition in the region. They are powerful in the hurdles, with nationally-ranked junior Noah Green, and will score big points in the distances, sprints, and relays.

 

You can see St. Thomas Aquinas in action at the Eastern Kansas League meet on Friday.

 

Andale is a dominating force in the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League, division 4. Both boys and girls teams kick off what could be a bountiful postseason as heavy favorites in that league, with their strength coming primarily in the throws, jumps and hurdles. Both teams are also currently ranked No. 1 in class 4A track and field based on a KS Milesplit virtual meet.

 

Maize South, formerly a 5A school moved to 4A this season, could be the biggest challenger to Andale down the line. They are distance rich; the school won the boys and girls cross country state titles last Fall and have many of the top-ranked runners from the 800 to the 3200.

 

Maize South will compete in the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League, division 2 meet.

 

In class 3A, Norton Community's boys - the class 3A state champions a year ago --  have good balance through all events again this year and are a pre-meet favorite in the Mid-Continent League. Hugoton, another pre-state favorite, will take its relay and distance strength to the Great West Activities Conference meet.

 

Sydney Johnson and Kourtni Hubert of Beloit lead their team into the North Central League meet. Hubert is the No. 2 ranked javelin thrower in Kansas (No. 1 in 3A) with a season-best of 148-0; and Johnson is No. 3 in Kansas in the discus (No. 1 in 3A) with a personal best of 141-3.75. Both also throw the discus and combined could score 30 or more points at the state meet this year.

 

Class 2A defending state champion Valley Heights is still loaded with talent, despite graduation losses the past two years. Senior Kayla Smith is class 2A's top ranked long jumper and triple jumper, and No. 3 in the 100. Freshman Samantha Vermetten has class 2A's top time in the 400 (1:00.77); and junior Skyler Saunders is No. 1 in the class 2A girls high jump (5-4).

 

The Mustangs are the favorite to win the Twin Valley League title this week.

 

Washington County's boys are the favorite in the Twin Valley League, and they're also a team that is on the rise as one of the contenders for the class 2A state crown. Seniors Dawson Miller (javelin) and Jerrod Hoover (high jump) are ranked No. 1 in class 2A currently.


Stanton County's boys will be the favorite to win the Hi-Plains League, led by distance standout Caleb Carrasco, second at state in the 800 and 1600 a year ago.

 

The Lyon County League probably belongs to the Olpe boys and girls. Nationally-ranked senior Kyler True will win any race he wants to run from 400 meters to 3200 meters, but the boys' team has depth that could also land them a state 1A title in a couple weeks.

 

A team that will be exciting to watch this post-season is the Lakeside girls. They enter the Northern Plains League meet as the heavy favorites, with athletes ranked No. 1 in 7 of 18 events. They are also a strong contender for the class 1A state championship.


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