The door to the class 6A girls individual state title may
have just swung wide open.
Shawnee Mission Northwest senior Molly Born, the two-time
defending champion, is reportedly still recovering from the effects of a stress
fracture that cut short her 2017 track and field season. Northwest head coach
Van Rose confirmed that Born's 2017 cross country season is "uncertain" at this
Born and Lawrence Free State's Emily Venters - who has
graduated and now runs for Boise State University - were the dominant forces in
6A distance running the past three years. In addition to winning the past two
cross country titles, Born swept the 6A 1600 and 3200 meter state crowns in
2015 and 2016.
Born also recently was listed No. 12 in the USA MileSplit
Flo50 rankings of the top female cross country runners in the country. Last
year, she was the Kansas Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year, and won the
Nike Heartland Regional title en route to a 23rd place finish at the Nike
Nationals in Portland, Ore.
If Born can't go this season, it leaves a half-dozen or more
girls who are legitimate pre-season contenders for the 6A girls individual
Lily Strauss of Blue Valley North, a junior, is the top
returner from last year's 6A state meet. She placed fifth in 2016 and eighth in
2015 and seems to thrive on the rolling hills of Rim Rock Farm, site of the
state meet. Her senior teammate, Sophie Scott, was 15th in cross country last
year, but she was the state champion at 800 meters and state runner-up in the
1600 at the state track and field meet in May.
But don't be surprised to see the lead pack crowded without
Born. Senior Emilee Endsley of Wichita East was ninth at the state meet a year
ago, and Sophie Call of Blue Valley West was 10th in cross country and sixth in
the 1600 as a freshman. Others who showed their mettle mostly on the track last
spring were senior Ingrid Worth of Shawnee Mission East, junior Clara Mayfield
of Manhattan, and senior Claire Fuhlhage of Olathe North.
Born's availability also affects the 6A girls team chase.
Shawnee Mission Northwest could be the preseason favorite if Born is running,
but it's a whole lot more tight if she isn't.
Manhattan, Blue Valley North, Olathe North and Shawnee Mission
North are the 6A girls teams most likely to duke it out with Shawnee Mission
Northwest. Shawnee Mission North was the state runner-up and Manhattan was
third a year ago and both return four of their top 5 runners.
In class 6A boys, Gardner-Edgerton's Trent Cochran made a
big splash on the state scene as a sophomore last year when he finished as the
state runner-up in cross country, and state runner-up in the 3200 meters on the
track. He's the top returner in both of those events this year, and thus has to
be considered the preseason favorite for the state cross country title this
But like the girls' division, there's likely to be tight
quarters at the front of the pack. Garden City seniors Javier Cervantes (fifth
at the state cross country meet last year) and Garrett Doll (third in the 1600
meters in track) are back for another shot, and Manhattan's Cooper Schroeder
(sixth at state cross and third in the 3200 meters in track) are pretty solid
Others that should be right in the mix are Olathe North
junior Brian Beach (seventh at state cross country last year), and Olathe East
senior Ben Kahnk (fifth in the 3200 meters in track).
Manhattan enters the 2017 season as a clear favorite to win
the 6A boys team title. The Indians return five of seven runners from a team
that consistently posted pack times of 30-40 seconds last year.
They also were hurt less by graduation than some of the
other teams that were near the top in 2016. Garden City, despite the 1-2 punch
of Cervantez and Doll, lost two of their top five, and Olathe East lost two of
five, including 2016 state champion Will Tindall. Dodge City, fourth at state a
year ago, lost all five of its scorers.
My hunch is that Garden City is a team to look out for. I've
been truly impressed by their coaching staff, as well as the tenacity and
consistency with which their boys team has run over the past few years. They've
tended to fly under the radar at the state meet, but have consistently climbed
the ladder the past three seasons.
Olathe North and Olathe East will also be strong contenders
for the class 6A boys podium this season.