If this year's Kansas class 3A cross country state meet looks a lot
like a repeat of last year, well, that's because it just might be.
Déjà vu, anyone?
Or maybe this is where you insert your best "Groundhog Day"
The 2016 state meet set a power structure in this division
that just seems to be carrying over to 2017. In the girls division, 18 of the
top 20 individuals are back this season, while on the boys' side, four of the
top five are returning.
Robert Pearce of Kingman was the 3A boys state champion last
year as a sophomore. He heads up a boys' field that should include 2016 state
runner-up Dallin Bailey of West Franklin, as well as Hugoton's Abraham Garcia
(a senior, fourth at state last year) and Riley County's Brett Kulp (a junior
who was fifth at state).
Pearce and Bailey, now a senior, also went 1-2 in the class
3A boys 3200 meter run at the spring's track and field championships, and
appear to have the makings of a healthy rivalry going on for individual titles.
Garcia is likely to lead another solid Hugoton boys' squad
which won an exciting battle to unseat two-time defending champion Halstead at
the 2016 state cross country championships. That team returns 6 of its top 7
runners from a year ago, placing them squarely as the team favorite for the
Halstead was hit hard by graduation, but is still a
contender for the class 3A boys' podium, while upstart Council Grove has
another year of experience that could finally land a podium spot for that
Hugoton's girls also won the class 3A state title a year
ago, and return 4 of their top 5 in their quest to defend the title. It's not
going to be easy, because class 3A girls seem to be extremely close with teams
from Norton Community, Hiawatha and Beloit right in the mix.
In case you're wondering, those same four teams placed 1
through 4 at the 2016 state meet.
Hiawatha's Elizabeth Kettler, a junior, is the top returner
to class 3A girls. She was second at the state cross country meet a year ago,
but last spring, she won her second consecutive 3200 meter title in track,
winning in a gutsy fight to the finish over Beloit's Hannah Burks.
Burks, just a sophomore, placed third in state cross country
last year. She and Lexi Kats of Norton Community (fourth at state cross)
actually had faster cross country PR's than Kettler last year, but Kettler ran a blistering last half-mile to beat them both at Rim Rock Farm.
Kettler not only could add a cross country title to her
resume this year, but she may also be able to lead Hiawatha's girls to the team
title. They were just eight points back of Hugoton last year, and they return 4
of their top 5 from that team. The interesting part of class 3A girls is that
the individual battles between Kettler, Burks and Kats could be the difference
in how their teams finish - it could be a matter of a team point here or there
for the class 3A girls title this year.
Beloit, third at state last year, return its
entire top five this season, while Norton Community - fourth at state in 2016 -
returns four of five. Looking at virtual meets on Kansas MileSplit, those four
teams are likely to be the top four again this year.
Keep this nugget in the back of your mind: Hugoton was a 4A school, and a pretty good one, before the 21-day enrollment count in Kansas last year when they were moved down to 3A. Could a return to 4A be in the cards, depending on the late September count this year?
That would completely rock this division...again.