Few Surprises as Kansas Teams Punch State Meet Tickets

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If the primary reason for the regional cross country meets across Kansas on Saturday was to get the best individuals and teams to the state meet, then let me say this: Mission Accomplished.


With at least one glaring exception.


The class 5A regional at Blue Valley Southwest was a gauntlet for the eight teams entered, featuring four boys' squads that could likely finish in the top five at the state meet, including three-time defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas.


Because just three teams could advance to state, it meant someone was going to get bounced. And the host team made sure it wasn't them.


Senior Dylan Miller ran a season- and career-best 15:49 for second place, a key finish as Blue Valley Southwest nabbed the third spot by four points ahead of St. James Academy. Blue Valley Southwest entered the meet on the proverbial bubble, having finished fourth against mostly the same teams at the Eastern Kansas League championships a week earlier.


St. Thomas Aquinas, led by Ethan Marshall in first place (15:42) and Reece Jones in third (15:52), scored 46 points to nip Mill Valley (52) for the team title. It wasn't surprising that St. Thomas Aquinas won this meet, but the margin of victory sets up a little more drama as the two teams prep for battle at the state meet next week.


In the girls' race, St. James Academy continued its dominance with a 20 point win over Mill Valley. St. James Academy posted an average time of 19:12 and pack time of 54 seconds for its five runners, scoring 30 points. Sophomores Sara Murrow (second in 18:51) and Katie Moore (third, 18:57) led the way.


Mill Valley was second with 50 points and St. Thomas Aquinas -- the five-time defending state champion in class 5A -- was third with 67. Aquinas junior Olivia Sovereign, the defending 5A state champion, ran the fastest girls' time in Kansas this week, winning the regional meet in 18:24.


Here are the highlights, by classification, from the other regional meets on a weekend when wind and rain hampered many races, especially on the western two-thirds of the state:


CLASS 6A


At the Olathe East regional, a couple pretty good team battles took place against the top contenders for 6A state titles. Olathe North's boys held off Olathe East on the boys' side, and Blue Valley North's girls  fought off a game challenge from Olathe North and Blue Valley West.


Olathe North and Blue Valley North emerged the last four weeks as the top teams in the division, but on Saturday, they may have begun to fully realize the task of fighting off the rest of the field.


Freshman Riley Beach of Blue Valley Northwest easily out-ran a star-studded field at the Olathe East regional. She won in 18:28 as she continues to shine the last month of the season. Blue Valley West's Kalea Chu (18:52) and Sophie Call (18:56) finished second and third.


Manhattan qualified its' boys and girls teams to state for the seventh straight year, sweeping the team titles at the Junction City regional. Senior Cooper Schroeder (16:24) and junior Clara Mayfield (19:03) led the Indians with individual titles.


At the Shawnee Mission Northwest Regional, Shawnee Mission North put on an impressive display, winning both team titles while notching 1-2 finishes by its runners in the individual races. Katie Kasunic (19:08) and Cassie Raines (19:33) topped the girls' field, while Joe Coddington (16:19) and Logan Jiskra (16:30) beat all the boys.


Garden City and Dodge City put on a good old-fashioned fight at the Wichita East regional, both schools moving on with the boys' and girls' teams to state. Jonathan Jones of Derby won the boys' race, but Garden City had three runners in the top 5 to key their team win. Brooke Navarro of Garden City ran 19:43 to out-duel Wichita East's Emilee Endsley (20:16), who was ninth at the class 6A state meet a year ago.


CLASS 5A


An oddity occurred at the class 5A Lansing regional on Saturday. Seaman's girls missed out on a spot to state by one point, finishing just behind Leavenworth for third place. But when the top five individuals not on qualifying teams were sorted out, they were all from Seaman.


The Vikings won't score as a team at the state meet, but they will have five runners toe the line next Saturday.


Lansing won the girls' meet with 39 points, ahead of Shawnee Heights  (49) and Leavenworth (62).


Maliki Pope of Seaman (16:39)  put up an impressive win, out-running Leavenworth's Daniel Bohnemann (16:57) for the boys' title at Lansing. Leavenworth won the team title with 42 points, one point ahead of Lansing. Seaman's boys earned the third spot to state.


Kerby Depenbusch of Great Bend has slowly made his way back from a summer injury and looks primed to challenge for the class 5A state title. He beat a very good field at the Bishop Carroll regional, clocking 16:00 for the individual win. Nathan Jones of Maize was second in 16:16.


Bishop Carroll, Maize South and Great Bend earned spots into the boys' state meet, while Maize South, Maize and Bishop Carroll punched their tickets on the girls' side. Freshman Alexa Rios of Maize South won the girls' race in 19:51.


At the Newton regional, Valley Center's girls will head to state after winning a tie with Andover for the third spot. Andover did not have a sixth runner to determine the tiebreaker. Salina South was the team winner, while Emporia -- led by individual winner Abby Stewart -- placed second.


Andover, Newton and Emporia were the boys' qualifiers from the Newton regional.


CLASS 4A


The heir apparent to Girard's Cailie Logue is pretty clear. Independence standout Renee Trout continues to roll through competition, clocking 19:40 to win the class 4A El Dorado regional by 50 seconds over last year's state runner-up, Aimee Davis of Clearwater.


The boys' defending state champion, Lakelin Conrad of Wichita Collegiate, won the regional title in a tussle with Cale Carson of El Dorado. Conrad clocked 17:05 while Carson was second in 17:15.


Circle's boys, a top contender for the class 4A title, won the regional over Andover Central and El Dorado, while Andover Central's girls -- second at state last year -- won over Circle and Wichita Trinity.


Baldwin is class 4A girls leading state contender, but they got into a dogfight with Basehor-Linwood at the Lansing regional. Baldwin scored 61 points for a one-point win over Basehor-Linwood, setting up a juicy rematch at state on Saturday.


Timothy Smith of Louisburg had the fastest time among class 4A regional winners, clocking 16:42 at the Burlington regional. Girard, Ottawa and Iola qualified on the boys side.


The girls' race at Burlington was pretty intense. The individual title went to Paxsten Eads of Fort Scott in 20:18, but the next four runners were all within 12 seconds. The tight finish followed in the team race; Louisburg scored 108 for the third spot to state, while Iola (109 points) and Paola (111) just missed out.


Hugoton, which swept the class 3A boys' and girls' state titles a year ago, will return to state in class 4A this year. Hugoton won the boys' regional title over Smoky Valley and Wamego, while the girls were third behind Buhler and Chapman.


Chapman freshman Taylor Briggs (19:58.3) and junior Aaron Modrow (17:07) were the regional winners.


CLASS 3A


In something of a surprise, class 3A defending state champion Robert 'Owen' Pearce of Kingman placed second at the Bishop Carroll regional -- by a runner in the same jersey. Teammate Teagan Flanagan clocked 16:35 for a 10 second win over Pearce. The pair may be in line for a 1-2 finish at this week's state meet.


Halstead, Kingman and Hesston grabbed the boys' spots to state, while Douglass, Cimarron and Sedgwick moved forward on the girls' side.


Elizabeth Kettler of Hiawatha, the state runner-up in class 3A last year, won the Riley County regional in 20:13, leading her team to a win over St. Mary's and Sabetha. Minutes later, Hiawatha's Justin Hodge did the same, winning in 17:07 to lead his team past Riley County and Sabetha.


Fredonia won the Central Heights regional over Osage City, while Council Grove scored 103 points to edge Jayhawk Linn (106) and Mission Valley (109) for the third spot. Central Heights, Council Grove and West Franklin qualified on the boys' side.


Hannah Burks of Beloit and Jack Thomas of Scott Community won titles at the Ellsworth regional, leading their teams to the state meet.


CLASS 2A


Hadley Splechter of Yates Center further solidified his standing as the top boys runner in class 2A, winning the Burlington regional in 16:06 -- more than minute over the next finisher. And his team made a huge step forward, winning the regional title when its fourth and fifth runners notched season-best times. Kansas City Christian and West Elk also qualified on the boys' side, while Lyndon, KC Christian and St. Mary's Colgan were the girls' qualifiers.


The power in class 2A, though, seems to be in Bennington. Senior Halle Johnson, a recent commit to Wichita State, continued her dominating season by winning the windy Riley County regional in 19:27. Bennington, the class 2A defending state champs, had five girls in the top 9 for an easy win over Sacred Heart and Bishop Seabury.


The Bennington boys have also emerged as a state favorite, and they put their strength on display in a team win over Wabaunsee and Ell-Saline. Henry Nelson of Bishop Seabury, who entered Saturday with the second-best time in class 2A, won the regional in 17:05.


Sisters Helen Giefer and Sybil Giefer of Trego Community finished 1-2 in the Greeley County regional. Ellinwood edged Trego for the team title, while Syracuse nabbed the third spot to state. The boys' team title went to Wichita County, which beat Oakley and Trego Community.


Erin Topham of Berean Academy won the individual title, leading her team to a win at the Meade regional. Kiowa County and Stanton County also qualified on the girls side. Ethan Thompson of Meade won the boys' race; Stanton County won the team title over Skyline and Meade.


CLASS 1A


No surprises here as Sylvan-Lucas sophomore Autumn Princ rolled to victory in 19:36 at the Washington County regional. Princ will run for her second straight class 1A state cross country title, having also won the 1600 and 3200 meter titles on the track last spring. She is a heavy favorite to win the 1A title next Saturday in Wamego.


There was also very little drama as Beloit-St. John's rolled to the boys' team title at the Washington County regional. The squad nearly posted a perfect score against possibly the only runner in the division who can keep them from doing it at the state meet this week.


Senior David Lutgen won the race in 16:16. Frankfort's Brodric Shirley was second in 16:57, followed by St. John's Adam Bates (17:06), Brandon Bates (17:09) and Caleb Eilert (17:12).


Frankfort, Axtell and Centralia also qualified on the boys' side, while Lakeside, Tescott, Centralia and Frankfort were the girls' teams that moved on from Washington County.


St. John-Hudson's boys perhaps are the best team outside of St. Johns-Beloit in class 1A. They won the Wichita East regional over South Central, Stafford and Central Christian. South Central's girls were the team champs at Wichita East, followed by Caldwell, Pretty Prairie and Lebo.


At the Greeley County regional, Trevor Fischer (18:21) and Trevor Medina (19:02) of Wallace County posted a 1-2 finish to lead their team to victory. Greeley County, South Gray and Victoria also moved on. All four girls' teams with full squads -- Greeley County, Ingalls, Wallace County and Otis-Bison -- moved on to state. Robyn Selzer of Wallace County (20:52) was the individual winner.


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