Regardless of what school you're from, and regardless of who you're cheering for at the class 4A state cross country championships this Saturday in Wamego, some part of you is going to hope things go well for Marv Smith.
The popular Iola coach is in his 40th year of coaching at the school and he may have his best team yet. His boys' squad won the class 4A Ottawa regional last weekend and is square in the conversation to win the school's first-ever state cross country championship this weekend.
If they win, it would also mark the first-ever cross country title for Smith, who has coached a pair of state champion track and field teams at the school. He's also had a couple runner-up cross country teams, but he's never experienced the thrill of bringing high school cross country's equivalent of the holy grail back to Iola.
change with a boys' squad that boasts three runners who have put up top
6 times in class 4A this season. Sophomore Jack Adams sits at No. 2 on the
class 4A list with a season-best of 16:15, while seniors Cole Regehr (16:19.5)
and Brett Plumlee (16:33) are at Nos. 5 and 6.
2018 Mustangs have six runners who have clocked 17:26 or better this season.
Their pack time hovers around 1:00.
Standing in their way is an equally powerful Buhler team that is led by freshman sensation Tanner Lindahl, who clocked a season-best 16:17.9 two weekends ago for second place at the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League meet.
Lindahl's time puts him as the No. 1 freshman in Kansas this season. He scored an impressive 26-second win in the Boys Blue division at the Rim Rock Farm Classic in September, with a then-season-best of 16:23.
Lindahl has a good chance to land in the top four at state, and the rest of his teammates should follow soon after. Senior Rand Lohrentz, freshman Hayden Keller and sophomore Cordell Hendrickson all are capable of earning state medals.
Iola's Elijah Fawson also is a potential state medalist, which means the team championship may come down to the fifth and sixth runners from each squad. In both cases, those are freshman runners who will be experiencing their first high school state meet.
One question still to be answered in the boys' chase is this: Iola's top times this season were run at the Pioneer League Championships on Oct. 11, on a course that was shortened due to heavy rains earlier that week. The Mustangs' win at regionals this past week keep them as a legit title contender, but we don't know completely if they're going to be able to stick with Buhler.
Buhler's girls appear to have the upper-hand for the class 4A title heading into this weekend's state meet. They rolled to a 33-point win at regionals this past weekend, and have run consistently well throughout the season, with pack times in the 1:00 range. They are led by Amaleigh Mattison and Emma Willison, but have been pretty strong through seven runners for most of the season.
Baldwin's girls, the defending champions in class 4A, have most everyone back, but have been somewhat quiet this season. They did win their regional last weekend by 35 points, led by freshman Jana Landreth's individual win.
But Baldwin was very impressive last year and could be very dangerous when conditions and courses are equal. Last year's dominating 30 point win over Andover Central (which is now a 5A school) is proof enough that Baldwin is one of those schools that tends to rise to the occasion at the state meet.
The class 4A individual titles center on a pair of runners from Chapman. Sophomore Taylor Briggs swept all of class 4A's distance titles a year ago, including a 13-second win over Independence's Renee Trout at the state cross country meet.
Trout, a junior, has a season-best of 18:27, good enough for the No. 1 girls' time in class 4A this season -- and No. 5 among all classifications in Kansas. Briggs checks in at 18:47 for the season, No. 2 in class 4A, but she's been relentless in state competition and will be tough to beat on Saturday.
Chapman's Aaron Modrow was fifth at state a year ago, and is the top returner from last year's field. In fact, only two runners from last year's top 10 are back, including Emmet Keller from Circle, who placed eighth to lead his team's state title win.
Modrow clocked a season- and career-best of 15:58.9 to win the North Central Kansas League title two weeks ago, making him the only class 4A runner to run sub-16:00 for the season.
In addition to the Iola trio and Buhler's Lindahl, those trying to catch Modrow should include El Dorado's Ezekiel Kemboi, who has a season-best of 16:17 and was the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League champion.
Class 4A Snapshot
Saturday, October 27 at the Wamego Country Club
Boys Start: 11:10 a.m.
Girls Start: 12:55 p.m.
Defending team champions: Circle (boys); Baldwin (girls)
2018 Kansas MileSplit Predictions:
Boys individual champion: Aaron Modrow, Chapman
Girls individual champion: Taylor Briggs, Chapman
Boys team champion: Iola
Girls team champion: Buhler