One Goal This Week: Get Yourself to State

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Survive and Advance.

That is all you really need to know as the Kansas cross country scene heads into regional meets across the state this Saturday.


In classes 2A through 5A, just the top three teams and top five individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the Kansas state championships on October 28. In class 1A - where there is one less regional meet on Saturday - the top four teams and top five individuals advance.


Winning the regional meet is pretty much irrelevant, except for satisfying the competitive itch. Just survive as one of the top three (or four) teams, and advance for a chance to make history for your school.


That is sometimes easier said than done, and especially if you're heading to the class 5A Blue Valley Southwest regional on Saturday. Four boys teams - St. Thomas Aquinas, Mill Valley, St. James Academy and Blue Valley Southwest - are all capable of finishing in the top five at the 5A state meet.


Problem is, only three of them will actually get the chance. One of those teams is going to be eliminated on Saturday.


It will actually be the second straight week that those four teams have gone head-to-head. At the Eastern Kansas League championships last Thursday, St. Thomas Aquinas was the team champion followed by Mill Valley and St. James Academy. Blue Valley Southwest was fourth, which is something they are hoping to avoid this week.


The case is very similar on the girls' side of the 5A Blue Valley Southwest regional, where St. James Academy, Mill Valley and St. Thomas Aquinas are likely the top three teams in class 5A this season. Blue Valley Southwest, again, may be left short on the girls' side of this regional.


Individually, the Blue Valley Southwest regional has many of the top individuals in the state competing. There are five boys who have run sub-16:00 this season, and 24 that have run better than 17:00. There are 18 girls who have run sub-20:00.


Greg Haynes of Mill Valley has the best time this season (15:40), but he'll have a tough bunch to contend with in Ethan Marshall of St. Thomas Aquinas (15:47), Jack Terry of Mill Valley (15:55), Sam Hubert of DeSoto (15:57) and Dylan Miller of Blue Valley Southwest (15:58).


Class 5A defending state champion Olivia Sovereign heads up the girls' field at this regional, having clocked a season-best of 18:31.6. Sara Murrow of St. James Academy is next at 18:59, while Mill Valley has a pair of contenders in Morgan Koca (19:00) and Britton Nelson (19:03).

Let's take a look at some of the other interesting matchups at some of the regionals planned for this weekend:


Riley County regional


Riley County actually hosts two regionals at the Leonardville Golf Course. The class 2A race features the school that just may sweep the class 2A state titles next week - Bennington. Senior Halle Johnson of Bennington is a dominating force in 2A this season, and a strong favorite to add a cross country title to the 800, 1600 and 3200 titles she won on the track last spring.


The boys' 2A race should provide an interesting matchup between Henry Nelson of Bishop Seabury, who has the second best time in class 2A this season (16:05), and Cooper Mumford of Kansas City Christian.


The class 3A races at Riley County also feature a school that could sweep the boys' and girls' state titles next week. Hiawatha is led by Justin Hodge on the boys' side, and 2016 state runner-up Elizabeth Kettler on the girls' side.


The Hiawatha boys will square off against Sabetha, another strong contender for the class 3A state title.


Olathe East regional


There are 21 boys in the field here who have run under 17:00 this season. There should be a good race between Brian Beach of Olathe North, who has a season best of 15:42, and Trent Cochran of Gardner-Edgerton - runner-up in class 6A last season - who has run 15:46.


Olathe North and Olathe South are two of the best boys' teams in the state, and will square off at this regional.


For the girls, Blue Valley North has emerged as the best team in the state. They'll face off at this regional against a pair of top five contenders in Olathe North and Blue Valley West. Olathe East, a perennial contender in class 6A, will have its hands full just getting to the state meet against these teams.


There are five girls in this regional who have run under 19:00 this season, including Blue Valley Northwest freshman Riley Beach (18:31), Blue Valley West's Sophie Call (18:47), Olathe North's Claire Fuhlhage (18:48), and Blue Valley North's Sophie Scott (18:24) and Lily Strauss (18:42).


Bishop Carroll regional


Bishop Carroll hosts two regional meets. The class 3A version will feature defending state champion Robert 'Owen' Pearce of Kingman, who is now a junior and has the division's best time of 16:01. His top competition may be junior teammate Teagan Flanagan.


The 5A meet at Bishop Carroll should feature a lead pack of four in both the boys' and girls' races. The girls' race should be a fight between three Maize South runners - Katie Wagner, Destini Eskridge and Alexa Rios - and Bishop Carroll's Claire Winter.


The boys' race features a good matchup between Maize South's Bryce Merriman (who has a season-best of 15:48) and Maize's Nathan Jones (16:04), Bishop Carroll's Matthew Harding (16:22), and Great Bend's Kerby Depenbusch (16:24).


Wichita East regional


Garden City is likely to prove once again that it is the Best Out West, as both the boys and girls teams are favored to win at this class 6A regional. The girls' race should feature a pretty good matchup between Wichita East's Emilee Endsley (ninth at state last year who has run 19:57 this season) and Garden City's Brooke Navarro.


Wichita East also hosts a 1A race, which is highlighted by St. John-Hudson's boys, and South Central's girls. Both are top contenders to win the state title next week.


Burlington regional


Yates Center has never had an individual state champion in cross country, nor a team champion. The Wildcat boys' team has a good chance at both this season, but first they have to take care of business at the Burlington regional.


Yates Center and West Elk are two of the best teams in class 2A this season and they will face off in this regional. Yates Center junior Hadley Splechter has class 2A's best time of 16:01. Yates Center easily has the best three in class 2A this season, but the key for the Wildcats' state title hopes is getting the fourth and fifth runners to the finish line. Saturday's regional will be another test.


Washington County regional


St. John-Beloit has a legitimate chance at posting a perfect score at this year's class 1A meet, but one of the runners who can break up that quest will be on hand at the Washington County regional.


Brodric Shirley of Frankfort leads his team into a showdown with St. John-Beloit, which is the runaway favorite for the class 1A boys' state title next week. St. John-Beloit senior David Lutgen has run the fastest time in class 1A this season, 16:14, while Shirley is second-best at 16:23.


St. John-Beloit has four of the top five times in this region, and four of the top 6 in class 1A. Look for Adam Bates, Brandon Bates and Caleb Eilert to be among the front pack on Saturday. Frankfort, while talented, will have a hard time matching the front-running strength of St. John-Beloit.


The girls' 1A race features Sylvan Lucas sophomore Autumn Princ, who won the state title as a freshman and continues her march toward winning another. Princ also won the 1600 and 3200 on the track last spring.


El Dorado regional


Class 4A defending state champion Lakelin Conrad of Wichita Collegiate heads the field at the El Dorado regional. Conrad has previously won state titles in class 3A (2014) and class 4A (2016). Regionals is the next step in trying to capture a third Kansas cross country title, which would make him just the eighth male runner in state history to reach that milestone.


Saturday, he'll face off against Cale Carson of El Dorado, who has run 16:22 and is a top five contender at the class 4A state meet this year.


The El Dorado regional also features a leading contender for the class 4A boys team title. Circle will take on Andover Central in a battle between two teams that will likely be in the top five next week.


The girls' race features Renee Trout of Independence, who has the top time in class 4A this season (18:51). This is the division that was dominated the past four years by Girard's Cailie Logue, and Trout may just be her successor this year.


A few others...


Scott Community's Jack Thomas, who has the second best time in class 3A this season (16:05), will run at the Ellsworth regional.


The class 4A Lansing regional should produce a good race between Sumner Academy's Morgan Dierks, Santa Fe Trail's Hannah Honeyman, and Baldwin's Ambrynn Stewart. Baldwin's girls are the favorite to win the 4A girls state title next week.


The class 2A Greeley County regional should showcase sisters Helen Giefer and Sybil Giefer of Trego Community. They are both top five contenders at the state meet next week.


Hugoton, the class 3A state champs in boys and girls last year, have moved up to 4A, and they will compete in the McPherson regional on Saturday. Senior Abraham Garcia is a favorite for the individual title Saturday, but will face a good challenge from Chapman's Aaron Modrow. Chapman freshman Taylor Briggs is the favorite in the girls' individual race.


The class 5A Lansing race has a good matchup set between Leavenworth's Daniel Bohnemann and Seaman's Maliki Pope. Bohneman is a steady runner who could be in the top five at state, while Pope was the Topeka City champion two weekends ago.


Scott Community heads to the class 3A Ellsworth regional with two teams that have a shot at class 3A state titles next week. The girls' squad will face off against another top contender, Beloit and standout runner Hannah Burks, who is a favorite for the individual crown.