Marshall Fights off Field for Repeat 5A Title

Ethan Marshall of St. Thomas Aquinas successfully defended his class 5A state cross country championship on Saturday at Rim Rock Farm, becoming the first boy from his school to win back-to-back individual state titles.

Marshall, a senior who won in 15:33.9, also led the Saints to a fifth consecutive win at the state meet, tying Bishop Carroll for the longest winning streak ever in class 5A.


"It's an awesome feeling to be the first kid in Aquinas history to win two straight," Marshall said minutes after his historic win. "There's no way this could have happened without my coaches and my teammates because I couldn't have thought about this when I started running."


Marshall sped out to an early lead with DeSoto's Sam Hubert and St. James Academy's Jack Moore. The trio was expected to battle it out up front and that's what transpired just a mile into the race.


But just after 1 ½ miles, Marshall surged to a 10 meter lead that he kept extending over the second half of the race. Hubert eventually got clear of Moore down the famed Jim Ryun skyline to finish second in 15:53.3. Moore, who finished second by four-tenths of a second to Marshall at the Eastern Kansas League championships two weeks ago, settled for third in 15:55.0.


"I wasn't sure what the guys were going to try to do against me, but I just knew that about halfway I was going to make my move and make it tough for them to hang on to me," Marshall said.


At two miles, "I wasn't expecting that early to be clear of them. I was hoping to make my move at the 4K; the earlier, the better, I guess. You can't complain about (the big lead at 2 miles)."


St. Thomas Aquinas' boys got a bit of a fight from Andover for the boys' team title, but the Saints' depth again proved too much at the state meet. St. Thomas Aquinas scored 58 points to 89 for Andover, which got a 4-5 finish from Ryan Kinnane (16:12.4) and Asher Moen (16:19.9).


Bishop Carroll, led by Jack Pate's sixth place finish (16:26.8), placed third with 95 points.


Luke Godard was 12th, Logan Seger 14th and Aiden Higgerson was 17th for St. Thomas Aquinas.


Sarah Murrow of St. James Academy won the girls' 5A title, the first state cross country win of her career. The junior also won the 3200 meter title on the track as a freshman in 2016.

She ran a steady race, pushing the early pace with Blue Valley Southwest's Gigi Loffredo and two-time defending 5A champion Olivia Sovereign of St. Thomas Aquinas. Murrow and Loffredo made it a two-girl race by 1 ½ miles, then Murrow was able to build a 20 meter gap by two miles.


"Everyone that I knew around me in the race were all very strong runners, so I knew it was all going to be mental," Murrow said. "The entire time I said, 'you're strong and you're mentally prepared for this,' and I took a lot of time before the race to mentally prepare for the stress and the situation of the race and pain. So I think I was ready for it."


Murrow's winning time was 18:46.8 while the lanky Loffredo grabbed the runner-up spot in 18:53.7. Afterwards, the two hugged and congratulated each other in the finish area.


Sovereign, a senior who is the only two-time girls state champion from Aquinas, was third in 18:56.9 - her best time this season after struggling with iron deficiency for much of the year. She did run like a champion in this race, getting out to a good pace and keeping Murrow and Loffredo honest throughout.


But Sovereign got a bit of redemption in this one, as her St. Thomas Aquinas team won the state title with 68 points, taking the title away from St. James. It was a bit of a surprise, even though it marks the tenth girls state title in St. Thomas' history.

After Sovereign, Aquinas got top 20 finishes from Allison Strathman (ninth, 19:50.6), Emily Gunderman (14th, 20:02.3) and Ellie Ward (18th, 20:13.2).


Bishop Carroll, led by a fourth place finish by freshman Hope Jackson (19:18.3), was the state runner-up with 79 points, while Eisenhower was third with 81. Blue Valley Southwest nipped St. James Academy for fourth place based on the sixth runner tiebreaker.