I'm going to throw you a change-up before digging a bit deeper into the class 1A cross country state championships this year. Instead of telling you who is going to be there, first I am going to tell you who is not going to be there.
Sylvan Grove-Lucas junior Autumn Princ, the two-time defending state champion in the girls division, is out for this season, having recently undergone surgery due to an undisclosed injury. She didn't look quite right last track season, even though she won the 3200 meter state title.
Princ tried to give it a go this cross country season, but her time of 22:33 for fourth place at the Tescott Invitational in late August was her only outing of the season, and nearly 4 minutes off her career best time over 5000 meters.
When you're a two-time champion, halfway on a quest to become just the sixth four-time champion in Kansas, you are afforded a tip of the hat.
Princ was likely to be challenged anyway, what-with a host of contenders rising up in the class 1A ranks. Included in that category are four runners who were medalists in class 2A a year ago.
Lincoln sophomore Jaycee Vath was the state runner-up in class 2A in 2017, and is now the leading contender in class 1A. Her teammate, senior Aubry Donley, should also be in the top 5 in 1A this season.
Senior Erin Topham and junior Brooke Weibe of Berean Academy were state medalists in class 2A last year, but now become top contenders for the individual state title in 1A. They also lead what looks to be the best girls' team in class 1A this season.
Topham was fifth in class 2A a season ago, but has run the best time among class 1A girls this season, 19:18. Vath has the second-best time at 19:25, and has won all but one of her races this season; only her teammate, Donley, has beaten her so far this year.
Also look for Ashland's Paige Harris to challenge for the individual title this season. She is the top returner from the class 1A meet a year ago, placing third. Sarah Tarn of South Gray and Olivia Kuckelman of Axtell placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in class 1A girls last year.
Berean Academy's girls seem to be a solid favorite to win the class 1A girls' team title. Only four runners score in class 1A, and Berean Academy is pretty good through 7. South Central (Coldwater) finished just 16 points behind Berean Academy at regionals, and also appears to go seven strong. Macksville and South Gray could be the teams best suited to pull an upset over the two leading contenders.
Collin Oswalt of Central Christian appears to be the pre-meet favorite in the boys' title chase. He has run a season-best of 15:54 - more than 45 seconds better than the next-best time in class 1A - and has won all but one of his races this season. His season best time came in a 13th place finish at the Rim Rock Farm Classic in September. Last year as a freshman, Oswalt was third at the state meet.
Oswalt won the regional title on Saturday by 1:13, cruising solo to a time of 16:17 on the Cessna Activities Center course in Wichita.
Sophomore Caleb Eilert and junior Brandon Bates of Beloit-St. John, and juniors Aj Miller and Mason Osborne of St. John-Hudson are the most likely contenders to Oswalt's pursuit of the 1A crown. St. John-Hudson should roll to the boys' team title, but look to Berean Academy and Wallace County to challenge on the guys' side.
Class 1A Snapshot
Saturday, October 27 at the Wamego Country Club
Boys Start: 12:20 p.m.
Girls Start: 10:35 a.m.
Defending team champions: St. John's-Beloit (boys); Greeley County (girls)
2018 Kansas MileSplit Predictions:
Boys individual champion: Collin Oswalt, Central Christian
Girls individual champion: Jaycee Vath, Lincoln
Boys team champion: St. John-Hudson
Girls team champion: Berean Academy