On one hand, spectators at this year's class 1A state cross
country championships could take a ho-hum attitude to what is expected to be a
pretty predictable meet.
Or you could get really pumped up about some pretty special
athletes about to take the course.
I'm choosing the latter, because I've seen David Lutgen of
St. John-Beloit and Autumn Princ of Sylvan-Lucas in action. They are the
prohibitive favorites to win individual state titles when the state
championships take place this Saturday in Wamego.
Lutgen, a senior, has the best time in class 1A this season,
but more than that, he has run well against good competition this season. He
placed third in the Rim Rock Farm Classic's Blue Division in late September,
battling shoulder-to-shoulder with class 4A state champion Lakelin Conrad of
Wichita Collegiate, and class 2A state meet favorite Hadley Splechter of Yates
At last week's regional meet at Washington County, Lutgen
defeated the guy with the next-best time in class 1A -- Frankfort's Brodric Shirley -- by 41 seconds.
Princ is even more dominating among 1A girls. She won the 1A
state title as a freshman last year, and followed up with state titles in the
1600 and 3200 on the track. She won her regional by more than a minute and
half, and has a season-best time of 18:42; nobody else in class 1A has a season
best better than 20:00 this season.
There is some drama in the team races, however.
The girls 1A title appears to be a three-team battle between
Greeley County, South Central, and Ingalls. Wallace County could sneak on to
the podium if either of those three teams has an off day. The teams have posted
similar average times throughout the season, but South Central has put together
pack times in the one minute range, which may give that team a slight
The drama in the boys' race is not so much who will win, but
how they will win. Lutgen and his St.
John teammates are the power brokers and the defending state champions in this division, and the biggest question
is whether they could post a perfect team score en route to victory.
I hate to possibly jinx anybody, because the race needs to be
run, but after Lutgen, St. John-Beloit has three standouts in senior Adam Bates, sophomore Brandon Bates, and freshman Caleb Eilert. Those three have the
fourth through sixth best times in class 1A this season, and they had four of
the top five at last week's regional meet.
The runner who broke up their perfecto at regionals was
Frankfort's Shirley, a senior who does have an outside shot at catching even
Lutgen. Shirley has run 16:24 for 5K this season, just 11 seconds off Lutgen's
best time. And Central Christian's Collin Oswalt, who has a season best of
16:47, could also stand in the way of a perfect team score for St. John.
The closest pursuers for St. John-Beloit in the team race
appear to be St. John-Hudson, Frankfort and Wallace County. St. John-Hudson won the state championship in class 2A last year, scoring a thrilling one-point win over Stanton County. However, barring
disaster for St. John-Beloit, those three teams appear to be running for second
Robyn Selzer of Wallace County has the second-best time in
class 1A girls this season (20:09). She is a seven-time state medalist in cross country and track and field who was second
at the state cross country meet in 2015 and third last year. She will likely battle
with Axtell sophomore Olivia Kuckelman -- who was the runner-up to Princ at this
past weekend's regional meet -- for the silver medal at state.
CLASS 1A SNAPSHOT
Boys Teams Competing --
Axtell, Central Christian, Centralia, Frankfort, Greeley County, South
Central, South Gray, St. John-Beloit, St. John-Hudson, Stafford, Victoria, Wallace
Girls Teams Competing
-- Caldwell, Centralia, Frankfort, Greeley County, Ingalls, Lakeside, Lebo,
Otis-Bison, Pretty Prairie, South Central, Tescott, Wallace County.
Race Times: 1A
girls at 11:10 a.m.; 1A boys at 12:55 p.m. at the Wamego Country Club.
champions St. John-Beloit boys and South Central girls; Individual champions
David Lutgen of St. John-Beloit and Autumn Princ of Sylvan-Lucas.