Now the fun begins.
The 2017 Kansas high school cross country season gets
underway on Thursday with several meets across the state. Each Wednesday
through the 2017 season, I'll pick out some of the great matchups that we
expect to see for the coming weekend.
Then check back for my column on Sunday evening that will
recap some of the best races and biggest surprises of the weekend.
It's show time...
Class 5A boys and girls defending champion St. Thomas
Aquinas packs the early season schedule with tough competition, beginning with
this Saturday's Greg Wilson Classic at
Johnson County Community College.
The meet features several of the best teams in the Kansas
City area, including both sides of the border. Blue Springs South's girls beat
St. Thomas Aquinas at this meet a year ago, and the boys' race will feature
Blue Springs' Victor Mugeche, who won this meet last year in 15:33 and is one
of the best runners in the Midwest region.
There were 21 boys who ran under 17:00 for 5K at this meet
last year. St. Thomas Aquinas' girls are led by junior Olivia Sovereign (5A
state champ last year, state runner-up in 2015) and senior Margaret Pigott
(state runner-up last year, state champ in 2015). The Saints' boys team debuts
a new set of leaders, expected to be seniors Andrew Lebourveau and Jacob Cofer.
The meet also includes Shawnee Mission Northwest and Shawnee
Mission North, whose girls' teams should factor into the 6A state title chase
later this season.
At the Manhattan
Invitational, Blue Valley Southwest will make the trek west to take on the
Indians, a team that is always tough on its home course. The matchup between
boys' teams should be especially interesting; Blue Valley Southwest placed
sixth at state in 5A a year ago, while Manhattan's boys were third in 6A.
The boys' individual race at Manhattan should also be
intriguing, featuring state sixth-place finishers Cooper Schroeder of Manhattan
(6A), and Blue Valley Southwest's Dylan Miller (5A). Adding extra spice to the
individual race are Daniel Bohnemann of Leavenworth (13th in 5A last year),
Hunter Henderson of Shawnee Heights (14th in 5A), Garrett Mick of Newton (16th
in 5A) and Alex Henton of Manhattan (12th in 6A).
A pretty great team battle should also take place at the J.K. Gold Classic, hosted by Wichita
State University at the Augusta golf course. Defending 4A girls champion Maize
South will do battle with last year's state runner-up Andover Central and
third-place finisher Circle. Those three schools also should put together a
pretty good show in the boys' team race, too, though Andover won the meet a
Trent Cochran of Gardener-Edgerton enters as the pre-meet
favorite in the boys' race. Just a junior, he's the top returning runner from
the class 6A ranks, having finished second in state cross country and in the
3200 meter run on the track last year.
Another of the state's top individual runners, Kerby Depenbusch, will defend his home turf on Saturday at the Great Bend Invitational. Depenbusch kicks off his senior campaign
as the top returner in the class 5A boys ranks.
Highlighting meets taking place on Thursday, the Anderson County Invitational should
feature a great individual race between Anderson County's Averi Wilson and
Santa Fe Trail's Hannah Honeyman. Wilson beat Honeyman at this meet last year, but
Honeyman ended the season better, finishing 13th at the 4A state meet.
At the Burlington
Invitational Thursday, we'll see the Yates Center boys cross country team
kick off what they hope will be a historic season for the school. The Wildcats
are a strong contender for the class 2A state title this year, and it would be
the first ever for their school if they can pull it off.
They've also never had an individual state champion in cross
country, and junior Hadley Splechter enters the season as a leading contender
to erase that mark. Splechter was the state cross country runner-up last year,
then won the 1600 and 3200 on the track last spring.
He'll be pushed on Saturday by a couple teammates - seniors
Colin Bedell (4th at state last year) and Jordan Smith (7th) - as well as West
Franklin's Dallin Bailey, the state runner-up in class 3A last year.
Hugoton's boys and girls, which swept the class 3A state
titles in 2016, kick off their title defense at the Meade Invitational. Both squads return the bulk of the teams that
won a year ago, and so it will take quite an effort for anyone to knock them
off. But we may also get a good idea if those teams put in the summer work and
are still hungry to go after another big gold trophy.
Other season debuts that I'm excited to see:
Clearwater's Aimee Davis, runner-up in class 4A
state as a freshman, will run her home meet on Thursday. Davis announced her
arrival to the state high school scene in a big way, winning the meet in a
great time of 19:04 last year.
At Thursday's Concordia Invitational, St. John's-Beloit senior David Lutgen and
Beloit sophomore Hannah Burks kick off what they hope can be a championship
season. Lutgen was the state runner-up in class 1A last year, and Burks placed
third in class 3A.
At the Basehor-Linwood
Bobcat Invitational on Thursday, Morgan Dierks of Sumner Academy is one to
watch in the girls race. She was eighth at the class 5A state championships a
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We are able to promote cross country in Kansas - and cross
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