CLASS 1A CROSS COUNTRY: Will Autumn Princ Continue Her Domination?

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This week, Kansas MileSplit reporter Pat Melgares will preview the state's cross country scene. Today, we look at class 1A boys and girls, and will follow with 2A through 6A each day through this Saturday.

At the same time that Kansas 1A cross country was saying goodbye to one of its brightest stars, along comes another.

Autumn Princ of Sylvan-Lucas is sure to draw a lot of attention over the next three seasons as the sophomore-to-be already has three state titles to her credit. With her dominating win at the 1A state cross country meet last year - she won the race by a full minute - she has a chance to become just the eighth four-time cross country champ in Kansas history.


Don't be fooled by the fact that Princ runs in class 1A; she can line up with any runner in any classification in the state and give them a run for the money. Princ followed up her state cross country title by sweeping the 1600 and 3200 meter runs in the track and field championships, and then won the 3000 meter run at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic national championships this summer.

That's a lot like another runner who romped through the class 1A ranks last year. Kyler True of Olpe, an 11-time state champion in 1A and 2A, is now off to Oklahoma State University. True was a three-time cross country champ and holds class 1A state records in the 1600 (4:07.17) and 3200 (9:12.15).


With True gone, the division's power brokers now look to be a pair of seniors from Beloit-St. Johns. David Lutgen was the runner-up to True at last year's cross country championships, and Adam Bates was fourth at state last year.


The only other returners from last year's top 10 at state are Trae Gehring (8th), a senior from Pretty Prairie; and Trevor Fischer (10th), a junior from Wallace County.


Beloit-St. Johns is a strong preseason favorite to defend the class 1A boys title it won a year ago. Aside from Lutgen and Bates, the squad will return six of its top 7 runners from a year ago.


Their main challenger in the team race may be Frankfort, which also returns six of last year's top 7. The Wildcats are led by senior Brodric Shirley, a medal winner in the 1600 and 3200 on the track last spring. Frankfort was 19 points behind Beloit-St. Johns at the 2016 state meet.


The class 1A girls field will likely be stacked. Eight of the top 10 finishers at the state meet last year return this year, and six of the top 11 were freshmen.


Robyn Selzer of Wallace County, now a senior, was third at the cross country state meet, as well as fifth in the 1600 and third in the 3200 in track. Junior Paige Harris of Fowler was fourth in the cross country championships a year ago, then placed second behind Princ in both the 1600 and 3200 on the track.


Goessel is the defending state champion in the girls division, but it was the hardest hit by graduation - losing two of its top four runners.


It probably opens the door for Ingalls, last year's state runner-up, which returns all four of its scoring runners, led by senior Kaylee Simon (sixth at the 1A championships a year ago). Ingalls had three runners in the top 10 and looked to be a runaway winner for the team title, but couldn't quite get its fourth runner to the finish line in time.


South Central, South Gray and Goessel will fight for podium spots again this year. Perennial contenders Greeley County and St. Paul may also be in the mix.


But as last year showed, class 1A can be strongly impacted by freshmen, as well as teams being re-classified due to the late September enrollment counts. What seems to be true entering the season could drastically change once October rolls around.


Stay tuned.