Classification Shakeup: KSHSAA announces changes for 2015-2016

Each year about this time, the earth shakes a little bit for Kansas cross country runners and coaches when the Kansas State High School Activities Association announces its classification changes for the current school year, based on member schools' Fall enrollment counts.


Monday was that day, and while a lot stayed the same, I see a few big moves that change the landscape for at least four divisions in the state.


I think the strongest tremors are in Class 4A, where Maize South has been moved from 5A. The Mavericks instantly become favorites for the 4A state championship in both the boys and girls divisions.


In fact, the girls were probably one of the top 3 in Class 5A before the move. They ran in the Girls Gold race at the Rim Rock Farm Classic on Saturday, finishing sixth overall, just 20 points behind reigning 5A champ St. Thomas Aquinas.


Circle High School's girls were a popular choice in class 4A girls - they won the Wamego Invitational by 65 points three weeks ago -- but now they will have to contend with a Maize South squad that posted an average time of 20:20 at the tough Rim Rock course. Circle's average at Wamego earlier this year was 21:28.


Maize South's boys were probably not going to catch the powerful St. Thomas Aquinas team for the 5A title this year, but they pretty quickly become the team to beat in Class 4A. The boys' team put up an average time of 17:19 at Rim Rock last weekend, about a minute better than Wamego's boys did on the same course later in the day.

Wamego and Circle appeared to be the top two teams in Class 4A boys, but now they've got to figure out a way to deal with Maize South.


The story is very similar in the 4A individual races. Lakelin Conrad of Wichita Collegiate (16:20) won the Boys Blue race at Rim Rock last weekend, beating 4A rivals Calvin Shannon (16:46) and Dylan Brenneman (16:59).


Those guys are still solid contenders, but now add Maize South's Ethan Kossover, who clocked 16:08 for 11th place in the Boys Gold race at Rim Rock.


On the girls' side, Maize South runners now have four of the top 9 times in Class 4A, led by Sierra Mortensen (19:06, third best in that division this year). She and her teammates probably aren't going to catch top-ranked Cailie Logue of Girard, but they certainly stand a chance to shake up the rest of the individual standings.


In Class 1A and 2A, the race for individual titles has a drastically different feel today than it did a week ago.


Class 2A champion Kyler True and Olpe High School move from 2A to 1A, and so True is immediately the favorite for the 1A crown - he won 2A championships the past two years.


Ordinarily, that might have been good news for South Gray senior Luke Skinner, who was the runner-up to True at last year's cross country championships, and spent a good amount of time chasing him on the track, too. But South Gray also was moved to 1A, where Skinner now has the division's second-best time.


One could, I think, see that as a bit of a break for runners in 2A. Caleb Carrasco of Stanton County now has that division's top 5K time (16:55), and Yates Center's 1-2 punch of Hadley Splechter (16:59) and Colin Bedell (17:06) move up to the second and third positions in Class 2A. Among others, they suddenly become very strong contenders for individual state titles.


Yates Center runners now have three of the top 10 times in Class 2A, but I'm not yet ready to name the Wildcats a contender for the team title. Yates Center needs a bit more depth to support their strong front-runners.


Hugoton was moved from class 4A to 3A, which puts them squarely in the boys' state championship picture. Senior Miguel Martinez (17:09) and junior Abraham Garcia (17:10) now have the second and third best 5K times in class 3A, and the Eagles have three of the top 12 times in the division.


The only classification that hasn't changed at all from 2015 is Class 6A. Mill Valley, a top 5A team, nearly climbed the ladder, coming up just 26 students short of a move to Class 6A.


Several schools also now have to make different bus plans for state meets this year. Those teams who previously ran at Rim Rock, but now will run at Wamego, include Bonner Springs, Larned, Leon-Bluestem, Maize South, and Scott Community.


Teams previously running at Wamego who will now head to Rim Rock in late October include DeSoto, Horton, Hugoton, Kingman and Sumner Academy.


See the complete list of state classifications, and a summary of the changes, on the KSHSAA web site.