EKL Lives up to Pre-Meet Billing; League Champs Crowned Across Kansas

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The thrill-ride that was expected for the Eastern Kansas League cross country championships this past week was just that…and maybe a little more.

Blue Valley Northwest freshman Riley Beach started the fireworks in the girls' varsity race when she out-leaned the defending class 5A state champion Olivia Sovereign of St. Thomas Aquinas for the individual title.

Beach finished in 18:31.20, the fastest time run by a Kansas girl this week. Sovereign, a junior, was the runner-up in 18:31.60. Beach's win established the freshman as the favorite heading into the 6A regionals and state meet, while Sovereign will be a favorite to repeat as the 5A state champion in a couple weeks.

But the excitement didn't end with the razor-close finish between Beach and Sovereign. In fact, EKL runners had the top five girls' times in Kansas this week, and 14 of the top 20.

Blue Valley North's Lily Strauss (18:53.80), St. James Academy's Sarah Murrow (18:59.20) and Blue Valley North's Sophie Scott (19:03.90) rounded out the top five. Murrow, a sophomore, was the class 5A 3200 meter state champion last spring and Scott, a senior, was the 800 meter state champ on the track.

The team chase featured a battle between the team that many consider to be the best in class 5A this season -- St. James Academy -- and the team considered by most to be the best right now in class 6A -- Blue Valley North. Murrow's St. James Academy girls continued their dominating season with an impressive win over Blue Valley North.

St. James Academy put together a pack time of 1:12 and scored 46 points to edge Blue Valley North, which had 53 points. St. James had four runners ahead of Blue Valley North's third runner to key the victory.

Mill Valley's girls, a strong contender for the 5A crown as well, placed third with 83 points while five-time defending 5A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas was fourth with 94.

The boys' race in the Eastern Kansas League didn't lack for excitement, either, even though St. Thomas Aquinas continued its dominating ways. Junior Ethan Marshall won the individual title with the week's best time of 15:47.10 -- the only Kansas runner to dip under 16:00 this week.

St. James Academy's Jack Moore was the runner-up in 16:06.70 and St. Thomas Aquinas' Reece Jones placed third in 16:17.10. Those were the second and third best times in Kansas this week. EKL boys had 12 of the state's top 20 times this week.

St. Thomas Aquinas, which scored a nifty 34 points, beat out Mill Valley (61 points), St. James Academy (79) and Blue Valley Southwest (87). Those four teams are probably the top four in class 5A this season, except there's a catch: All four of those teams will run in the same regional next week, and only three will qualify for state.

Around the state…

Rain threatened to cancel several meets this week, but it appears that everyone got their races in by Saturday. The Sunflower League moved its Saturday meet to Friday, and put on a pretty good show, as well.

Katie Kasunic of Shawnee Mission North led her team to the Sunflower League girls' title, winning the individual race in 19:31.60. Claire Fuhlhage of Olathe North placed second in 19:54.70. Shawnee Mission North scored 36 points to edge Olathe North, which had 40.

The Sunflower League boys' individual race was a battle between three juniors. Leavenworth's Daniel Bohnemann out-sprinted Olathe North's Jackson Caldwell to win in 16:27.70. Calwell was second in 16:29.80 while Gardner-Edgerton's Trent Cochran, runner-up in class 6A last year, was third in 16:36.00.

Olathe East won the boys' team title convincingly  in the Sunflower League, scoring 49 points. Shawnee Mission North and Olathe North scored 89 points, but Shawnee Mission North got the runner-up spot based on the sixth runner tiebreaker.

Matthew Harding and his Bishop Carroll teammates ran away with the Greater Wichita Athletics League titles. Harding won the individual race in 16:43 and teammate Wayne Hesse was second in 16:50. Bishop Carroll scored 23 points to easily beat runner-up Wichita North (60).

Bishop Carroll also swept the GWAL girls' titles. Junior Claire Winter clocked 19:57 for a 33 second victory, and her team had 41 points to beat Kapaun Mt. Carmel (71) and Wichita East (78).

The Centennial League combined its JV and varsity races and beat the Saturday rainstorm in Topeka by minutes. Manhattan rolled to its eighth consecutive sweep of the boys and girls team titles, with Cooper Schroeder (16:22.90) and Clara Mayfield (19:21.40) winning the individual titles. Washburn Rural, the Topeka City League champs the week before, was the runner up in both divisions.

A pretty good race took place at the Southeast Kansas League meet where Independence junior Renee Trout won in 19:04.00. Trout, who is a leading contender to win the class 4A state championship in two weeks, had the sixth best time in Kansas with her finish. At the league meet, she out-ran Pittsburg's McKenzie Wilks, a pretty good runner in her own right, who clocked 19:40.

Among the other girls individual league champions this week were Elizabeth Kettler of Hiawatha (Big 7 League), Halle Johnson of Bennington (Heart of America League), Trinity Moore of Louisburg (Frontier League), Hannah Honeyman of Santa Fe Trail (Pioneer League), Hannah Nuest of Buhler (AVCTL Div. 3), Aimee Davis of Clearwater (AVCTL Div. 4), and Olivia Kuckelman of Axtell (Twin Valley League).

Additional league champions for the boys this week include Justin Hodge of Hiawatha (Big 7 League), Jack Thomas of Scott Community (Great West Activities Conference), Sam Hubert of DeSoto (Frontier League), Brodric Shirley of Frankfort (Twin Valley League), Reno Lemon of Chanute (Southeast Kansas League), Kerby Depenbusch of Great Bend (Western Athletic Conference), and Ethan Thompson of Meade (Hi-Plains).

Results of most of Kansas schools' league meets are available on ks.milesplit.com. We did not receive results from every league in the state yet, so if you do not see your school's results, please contact a coach and ask them to send in their league results. We will update with new results as we receive them.

Original electronic files of results should be sent to Jim Madison, madisonj@westelk.us, and Pat Melgares, melgares@LetsGoRun.com.