The Kansas State High School Activities Association announced its annual shakeup of the classifications for its 14 interscholastic sports today, delivering a few major tremors affecting the state's cross country and track and field scene.
In one of the worst-kept secrets in Kansas cross country and track and field, Mill Valley has moved from class 5A to class 6A - instantly becoming the favorite to win the girls' state championship in about five weeks.
Many of the state's coaches were already talking about Mill Valley's move last spring, when it was first announced that KSHSAA would increase its member schools to 36 in classes 5A and 6A.
The new divisions also place 64 schools in classes 2A and 3A, and 117 schools in class 1A. The number of schools in class 4A was actually reduced to 36.
Previously, there were 32 schools in class 5A and 6A. The new classifications add four teams to the state's top two divisions; decrease the total number of schools in class 4A; and more equally distribute teams in 2A and 3A.
Leavenworth's Sept. 20 enrollment is listed at 1,320, just seven more students than the largest school in class 5A (Wichita Heights, with 1,313 students).
Mill Valley's girls were the state runner-up in class 5A last year, and have so far been the best team in Kansas this season. The Jaguars placed third at last weekend's Rim Rock Classic near Lawrence - the top finishing team from Kansas in the gold division.
They were expected to battle St. James Academy for the class
5A title this season, but instead will have a host of contenders to deal with
in class 6A, including tough teams from Blue Valley North, Blue Valley West, and
Manhattan - class 6A teams that finished in the top 10 at Rim Rock last
weekend. Olathe North's girls also should be in the class 6A mix.
Mill Valley's exit in class 5A boys leaves four-time defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas without one of its main rivals. Mill Valley placed second, just 11 points back of Aquinas a year ago. A St. Thomas Aquinas win this year would give that team five straight at state and a tie for the longest winning streak ever in class 5A.
Andover Central, the state runner-up in class 4A boys and girls last year, has been moved to class 5A and should give Aquinas a stiff challenge. Andover's boys were third in class 5A last season and have routinely run well at Rim Rock Farm - giving them one of the better chances to pull an upset in class 5A.
Mill Valley's boys may find the going tougher in class 6A, though the Jaguars certainly could be a contender for a podium spot. Defending 6A state champion Olathe North has its entire team back from last year and is still the prohibitive favorite in that division.
KSHSAA's classification changes created a few interesting shifts for a few individuals, as well.
Perhaps the most intriguing is in class 1A where Lincoln's Jaycee Vath and Aubry Donley are instant contenders for the individual state title. Lincoln was previously a 2A school. Vath and Donley both have defeated class 1A's two-time defending state champion Autumn Princ of Sylvan-Grove this season.
Baxter Springs moves from class 4A to class 3A which means that JP Rutledge - who currently holds the state's second fastest time at 15:31 - becomes a leading contender in a division that features a strong duo in Kingman's Robert Pearce (the 2016 state champ) and Teagan Flanagan (second at state last year). Girard's Cormick Logue, whose school was moved from class 4A, has run a season-best of 16:40 - fourth best in class 3A currently.
See the complete listing of KSHSAA's classification changes at this web address, http://www.kshsaa.org/Public/General/Classifications.cfm.