The bulk of Kansas' cross country teams are heading to
Lawrence this week to participate in one of the country's premier meets when
the annual Rim Rock Farm Classic takes place Saturday.
The meet features many of the elite teams within a seven-state
region. They'll be taking on the historic - and very tough - Rim Rock Farm
course that is as much known for the slew of famous runners it has hosted as it
is for its unforgiving hills.
Rim Rock Farm was one of the first-ever courses in the United
States that was built exclusively for cross country. It is easily one of the
most scenic courses in the United States, with two iconic bridge crossings and
But even all that pales in comparison to the quality of the
runners that will come to Rim Rock on Saturday.
The meet features gold, crimson and blue divisions for
varsity and junior varsity runners. There is one boys and one girls 'C' race at
the end of the day.
Between the three divisions, there are 151 boys teams and
137 girls teams scheduled to compete. For Kansas' 3A, 5A and 6A schools, it's a
preview of the same course they'll run for the Kansas state championships in
MileSplit Kansas has been running virtual meets, based on
each runner's season-best time to date; check out our web site to see how your
team stacks up.
Even so, you can predict the outcome all you want, but it's
all about lacing up the shoes on Saturday and seeing how it shakes out. I'm
looking forward to seeing some runners that I get to write about, but don't
often get to see in person.
Let's break it down...
Boys Gold Division
This will be ultra exciting with some of the best runners in
the region, starting with Blue Springs High School's Victor Mugeche. The
Missouri runner has the top time coming in (15:11), and currently sits at No.
25 in MileSplit's listing of the top times in the United States this season.
That said, I don't expect Mugeche to have a cake walk on
Saturday. He'll be challenged by Webb City (Mo.) senior Ryan Riddle, who won
the Missouri Southern Stampede last Saturday, and possibly by Harrison Scudamore of Denver East High School, who has run 15:28 at altitude this
Tim Sindt of Ankeny (Ia.) High School has run 15:31, and
Manhattan's Cooper Schroeder has the top time by a Kansas runner this year,
clocking 15:38 at Joplin last weekend.
St. Thomas Aquinas' boys are the pre-meet favorite for the
team title. The Saints will likely bring a tight pack, led by junior Ethan Marshall.
Aquinas has made the tough Rim Rock course a second home, and I fully expect
they'll come ready to run this weekend.
Girls Gold Division
Out-of-state runners also are among the pre-meet favorites
in the Girls Gold Division, with Sioux City North (Ia.) High School's Dakota South coming in with the top time at 18:07.50. That time puts her in the top
100 among U.S. girls this season.
She'll have her hands full, however, with Blue Springs
South's (Mo.) Victoria Findley, who won the Greg Wilson Classic earlier this
season, and Iowa City West's Bailey Nock, who come in with season-best times of
18:16 and 18:18. Blue Valley North's Sophie Scott is the fastest girl in Kansas
right now, clocking 18:24 to win the Olathe North Twilight Classic two weeks
Scott's team is the pre-meet favorite, and don't be surprised
if it's not a close race. Blue Valley North not only has front runners, but has
developed depth that will play well in such a large meet. Look for Mill Valley
to be the other Kansas school with an outside shot at the title; they've
already beaten class 5A defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas this season, and
have been putting together some great pack times.
Boys Crimson Division
Out-of-state runners also seem to have the inside track in
this division, as the top six times coming in are by runners from surrounding
states. Missouri runner Ean Buffington of Jackson High School enters with a
season-best of 15:53.
The top Kansas runner entering Saturday is DeSoto's Sam Hubert, who has a best of 16:35, while Maliki Pope of Seaman has run 16:36 on
Wichita North seems to have the best chance at a team title
in this division among Kansas schools. The squad could ride what appears to be
a tight pack to a top-five finish. Shawnee Mission West is the other Kansas
school with strong top five potential.
Michelle Sanchez of Junction City should challenge for the
individual title in the Girls Crimson race. She comes in with a season best of
19:26, though the division's best time is by Mariah Lister of Grain Valley
(Mo.), who has run 19:17. Sanchez has run well at Rim Rock in the past; she
placed eighth at the class 6A state championships running for Manhattan last
Blue Valley Northwest freshman Riley Beach and Pittsburg
senior Mckenzie Wilks enter with top 10 times and could find themselves on the
Kansas teams, though, will likely have a tough time bringing
home some hardware in this division. The top 11 teams in MileSplit's virtual
meet all come from out-of-state. Andover Central, the state runner-up in class 4A
last year, may be Kansas' best hope for a top 10 finish.
Boys Blue Division
Wichita Collegiate's Lakelin Conrad is the defending
champion in this race, winning in 16:20 last year en route to winning the class
4A individual state title last year. He's among the contenders again this year,
as he enters with the second-best time of the season (16:37).
The best time entering the meet, however, belongs to Yates
Center's Hadley Splechter, who has won his first three races of the season,
including the gold division at the Missouri Southern Stampede last weekend.
Splechter, a junior who won the 1600 and 3200 meter state titles on the track
last spring, has a season-best of 16:01.
Bean Minor of Salida, Colo., is one to watch for. He's run
16:39 at altitude this season and leads a Spartan team that has done well on
the Colorado scene. In fact, Salida enters as the team favorite, though Joplin
(Mo.) should make it a very interesting team race.
Girls Blue Division
Olathe West, in its first year of existence, could make its
mark in the Girls Blue Division on Saturday. Sophomore Mikala Bourquin enters
with the division's best time of 19:42, while teammate Jenna Mullen has the
second-best mark of 19:47. Those two likely won't be enough to carry Olathe
West to a team title, but they'll certainly make their presence known at Rim
Ruby Brown of Salida (Colo.), Laurel Singh of Joplin (Mo.) and
Halle Johnson of Bennington should push the two Olathe West stars. Johnson was
the 800, 1600 and 3200 Kansas state champion on the track last spring, and won
her first two races of the season this year.
Like the Boys Blue Division, the team chase for the girls likely
comes down to Salida and Joplin.
Look for coverage from Rim Rock Farm to be posted on this site by
Saturday afternoon, including video interviews with top finishers. Results will be posted to MileSplit Kansas as they are