St. Thomas Aquinas' Ethan Marshall and St. James Academy's
Jack Moore staged an old-fashioned throw-down for the Eastern Kansas League
championship last Thursday, kicking off what proved to be an exciting week of
league championship running in Kansas.
Marshall and Moore made quick work of the rest of the field on a course that was made a soupy mess after rains battered the Blue Valley Southwest course this past week. But the duo seemed to be running on a different track from everyone else as they broke away early and built a 50 second lead on the pack.
They were shoulder-to-shoulder with less than 50 meters to go when Marshall - the defending state champion in class 5A - found just a little bit more in the tank to win the league title in 15:40.4. Moore dug down to his toenails, but settled for second place - just .4 behind in 15:40.8. Darius Hightower of Mill Valley beat everyone else, finishing third in 16:32.6.
Marshall is shooting for back-to-back class 5A titles, which would make him the first Aquinas boy ever to accomplish that feat. Moore is going to have his say when the two meet again - they'll run at different regionals this week, but should match up again at the class 5A state meet in two weeks.
St. Thomas Aquinas scored 50 points to win the EKL title by 6 points over Mill Valley.
Defending class 6A state champion Riley Beach of Blue Valley Northwest is rounding into post-season form nicely. She won the girls EKL title in a time of 18:40.2, beating one of the brightest new stars in Kansas cross country running - Mill Valley's Katie Schwartzkopf (league runner-up in 18:48.6).
Mill Valley won the girls EKL crown, but an interesting sidenote is that St. James Academy - the defending state champions in class 5A - failed to record a team score. The squad was only running five varsity runners on Thursday, and one failed to finish, leaving them one short of a team.
The EKL boys' race was nearly matched by a Centennial League showdown between two Kansas speedsters who have run the fastest times in the state by a girl this season.
Washburn Rural's Jaybe Shufelberger entered the league meet with a state-best time of 17:59.8 run on the tough Rim Rock course just three weeks ago. Manhattan's Clara Mayfield is No. 2 in the state rankings, having run 18:24 and 18:20 in back-to-back weeks in mid-September (the latter time landed her a third place finish at Rim Rock).
On Saturday, though, Shufelberger got away from Mayfield, winning the Centennial League title with a time of 18:27.1. Mayfield finished in 18:48.8 for second place. Shufelberger has now won all five of her races this season.
Shufelberger and Mayfield are in the same regional meet, and they will certainly be among the favorites to win the class 6A girls state title in two weeks (Mayfield was the state runner-up last year, while Shufelberger placed 12th.) It's a three-week stretch between two special runners that will be fun for spectators to watch.
Manhattan had entered the Centennial League meet having won eight consecutive team titles in both the boys' and girls divisions. Mayfield led four Manhattan girls in the top five and a ninth consecutive title. But on the boys' side, Washburn Rural - led by a second place finish by Rylan Brown (16:44.5) - snapped Manhattan's winning streak with an eight-point win. Manhattan sophomore Daniel Harkin was the individual champion (16:32.6).
Shawnee Mission North seniors Asher Molina and Katie Kasunic swept the individual titles at the Sunflower League championships. Molina won in 15:57.1, just three seconds ahead of class 6A defending state champion Trent Cochran of Gardner-Edgerton (16:00.6). Kasunic won the girls' title in 19:02.9.
Olathe North dominated the boys' and girls' team titles in the Sunflower League. The boys' team - which will try to defend its class 6A state title in two weeks - scored 33 points for a 51 point victory over Olathe East; and the girls had 31 for an 88 point -- that's correct, eighty-eight points -- win over Shawnee Mission North.
Three of the best in class 3A boys matched up in the CNC League meet Thursday. Jp Rutledge of Baxter Springs - who owns the state's second-fastest time this season (15:31.3 at the Missouri Southern Stampede) won the league title in a solid 15:42.0. Matthew Oglesby of Galena (15:54) and Cormick Logue of Girard (16:03) rounded out the top three; all three of those guys run in the same regional next week, and all three could be in the top 5 in the class 3A state meet in two weeks.
Girard swept the team titles at the CNC League meet.
The state's fastest freshman so far this season - Tanner Lindahl of Buhler - just about caught El Dorado's Ezekiel Kemboi for the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail league title (Division 3). But Kemboi held off the feisty freshman to win in 16:17.2, while Lindahl was just a hair behind at 16:17.9. Lindahl's Buhler squad, however, turned the tables, posting a 14-point win over El Dorado for the team title.
Buhler also won the AVCTL Div. 3 girls' team title, beating Circle by 42 points. The win serves notice that Buhler will be a force to be reckoned with when the class 4A state championships take place in two weeks.
Sophomore Taylor Briggs ran solo from start to finish en route to the girls' league title in a time of 18:43.2. Briggs swept the state titles as a freshman last year, and no one in class 4A has stepped forward as a serious challenger to her dominance yet this year. Sydney Burton of Abilene - who committed this week to run at Kansas State University next year - was the NCKL runner-up in 20:02.4.
Senior Aaron Modrow also won a league title for Chapman, running a career best 15:58.9.
The NCKL meet was switched from the Wamego Country Club - site of the class 1A/2A/4A state championships - due to heavy rains that soaked the course this past week. Instead, the NCKL held its annual slugfest at the Wamego Middle School course, which included 3-plus loops of a 1 mile course.
Clay Center, a contender to make the podium at state after a move down to class 3A this season, swept the team titles at the NCKL meet, edging host Wamego in both divisions.
Javier Marquez of Dodge City won the WAC League boys' title, keying his team's five point victory over Great Bend. Marquez' time was 16:55.7. Dodge City also won the girls' title, overcoming a 1-2-3 finish by Great Bend's Mayra Ramirez (16:07.1, 4000 meters), McKenna Esfeld (16:19.0) and Emilia Diaz (16:19.6).
A pair of Hiawatha runners certainly look ready to lead their teams' charge to class 3A state titles. Justin Hodge (15:43.2) and Elizabeth Kettler (19:14.2) won the individual titles in the Big 7 League, and Hiawatha swept the team titles. Last year, Hiawatha's girls won the school's first ever state title in the sport, and now they could have the makings of a sweep of boys' and girls' titles this season.
Kettler's teammate, Kate Madsen, was the Big 7 runner-up in a time of 19:54.9.
St. John-Hudson's boys nearly posted a perfect score, putting five runners in the top 7 to win the Central Prairie League meet with 17 points. Aj Miller (17:50.8) and Mason Osborn (18:14.4) posted a 1-2 finish to lead the win.
Renee Trout of Independence kept up her dominance of the Southeast Kansas League, winning the girls' title in 19:17.9 - about a minute ahead of the field. Fort Scott, however, put five runners in the top 11 and edged Independence for the girls' team title.
Ethan Thompson of Meade, the state runner-up in class 2A last season, put another Hi Plains League title in his pocket, winning the boys' title in 17:11. Stanton County, which is among the top contenders for the class 2A state title, won the team title by 16 points over Lakin.
Check out all of the results from this year's league meets on Kansas Milesplit,.