Border War Goes to Kansas Teams

In the annual battle between cross-border teams, most would say that Kansas walked away with bragging rights.

The KC Cross Country Classic featured a majority of the Kansas City area cross country schools on Saturday, hosted in the Show-Me state by Raymore Peculiar. But it was a Kansas school - Mill Valley --  that felt right at home as the Jaguars won the boys' and girls' team titles.

Riley Beach of Blue Valley Northwest beat the field of 212 runners in the girls' division, clocking a season- and career-best time of 18:23, which moved her to the No. 3 time by a Kansas girl this season. Beach, a sophomore who is the defending state champion in class 6A, won in an exciting kick to the finish over Liberty's Madelyn Hill, who clocked 18:23.9. Hill placed second and beat Beach at the Rim Rock Classic a week ago, but Beach was able to avenge that loss on Saturday.

Two other Kansas girls made the top 10 state times, as Katie Schwartzkopf of Mill Valley was third in 18:26.3 (fourth best time in Kansas currently) and Bella Call of Blue Valley West placed sixth in 18:59.3 (good for No. 8 in Kansas).

Schwartzkopf, a freshman, is the newest horse in Mill Valley's stable. Her finish led the Jaguars to a 78 point total, good for a four-point victory over Blue Valley West. Blue Valley North, led by Lily Strauss' 13th place finish (19:12), was third with 121 points.

On the boys' side, the top Kansas finishers were Mill Valley's Darius Hightower in seventh (16:32) and teammate Matthew Turner in eighth (16:33). But the Jaguars put their first five in the top 22, and strung together a 22 second pack time to win the team title easily with 69 points.

Liberty (Mo.) was second in the team standings at 92. The next Kansas team was Olathe South in fourth at 129 points.

The win by Mill Valley's boys will only heighten the interest in the race for the class 6A boys state title this season. That's a solid win for Mill Valley, which moved from 5A just this past week, and puts them square in the title chase with defending champion Olathe North. Speaking of which...

Ah, yes, Olathe North. They were busy taking on the field at one of the best meets in the United States on Saturday, the Roy Griak Invitational hosted by the University of Minnesota. Brian Beach placed 15th (16:23) and Cade Heikes was 19th (16:26) as Olathe North placed second at the 55-team meet, just nine points behind Edina (Minn.).

Edina, a regular participant in the Nike Nationals and one of the top programs in the United States, scored 154 and Olathe North had 163. St. Thomas Aquinas placed sixth with 264.

Aquinas' Ethan Marshall was the top Kansas finisher at the Griak meet, placing fifth in 16:06.2. There were 517 runners in the boys' Gold Division.

In the girls' race, Shawnee Mission North's Katie Kasunic clocked a season-best time of 18:55.3 to place 25th - the top finish by a Kansas girl at the Griak Invitational. Sarah Whitaker of Olathe North was 27th in a time of 19:02.5.

St. Thomas Aquinas was the top finishing Kansas school in the girls' division, placing 18th with 589 points. Two-time defending class 5A state champion Olivia Sovereign was the top finisher for the Saints, placing 53rd in 19:29.

In other meets involving Kansas schools this week:

Ryan Kinnane of Andover won a thrilling sprint to the finish against El Dorado's Ezekiel Kemboi at the Newton Invitational. Kinnane won the meet in 16:17.5 while Kemboi was right on his heels at 16:18.5. Wichita East's boys had three runners in the top 10 and rode a 53 second pack time to a seven point victory over Dodge City.

Eva McKinzie, a freshman from Wichita East, won the girls race in 20:05.7. Maize South's girls scored a one-point victory over Eisenhower in the team standings.

Jack Moore of St. James Academy notched a career-best time and rose to No. 5 in Kansas as he won the Baldwin Invitational in 15:51. Matthew Harding of Bishop Carroll placed second in 16:06. Moore's win helped St. James Academy score a five point win over Lansing, which was awarded second place based on a sixth-runner tiebreaker with Shawnee Mission Northwest.

Sarah Murrow of St. James also led her team to victory, notching a season-best 18:51.17 and the sixth best time in Kansas this season. The squad nearly put up a perfect score sweeping the top four places with Hannah Robinson (19:05), Katie Moore (19:17) and Mary O'Connor (19:25).

Baldwin, a favorite to win the class 4A state title this year, was second with 50 points. Freshman Jana Landreth placed sixth in 20:29 to lead a 33 second pack time. Six Baldwin runners placed in the top 16.

Jacob Vermillion and Melody Ochana of Olathe East led their team's romp through the Seaman Invitational on Saturday. Vermillion won the boys' race in 16:11 - the 14th best time in Kansas this season - and Ochana beat the girls field in 19:23. Olathe East won both varsity titles, as well as both junior varsity titles.

Manhattan did about the same at the Bob Schmoekel Invitational in Junction City, winning six of six divisions. Sophomore Daniel Harkin won the boys' chase in 16:22, keying a 41-49 win over Great Bend. Zoie Ecord of Maize, a freshman, won the girls' race in 19:47.6.

Emporia had a pretty good day at the Winfield Invitational. Sophomore Treyson True clocked a career-best of 16:15 to win the individual title. The Spartans scored 36 points to win the team title over Wichita Northwest, which had 59.

Freshman Skye Kroskey of Wichita Northwest won the girls' race in 19:58.45, leading her team to 24 points and the team title.

At the Ness City Invitational, the Giefer family had a pretty good day. Wyndom Giefer of Trego Community won the boys' race in 17:20 and Helen Giefer - a top contender for the class 3A state title this season - won the girls' race in 19:05.9. Scott Community swept the boys' and girls' team titles.

Other individual winners this past week included Owen Roellchen of Piper (17:54) and Fallon Russell of Bishop Miege (20:47) at the Perry-LeCompton Invitational; and Quinn Buessing of Axtell (17:23) and Natalie Harlan of Washington County (20:10) at the Centralia Invitational.