Kansas' class 5A track and field division is loaded with powerful teams, but for the past three years, they've all been chasing Newton's girls.
The Railers have reeled off three straight state championships - the only girls' state track and field titles in that school's history, in fact - with a roster loaded with top-end talent and depth.
Two years ago, Newton was 34 points down with just an afternoon session to go, then rolled through the sprint finals and a 14-point victory.
Last year, Newton won a thrilling back and forth battle against St. James Academy and Pittsburg, eventually scoring 86 points to St. James' 76 and Pittsburg's 70. It was pure electricity as class 5A spectators and coaches were scoreboard watching after every event.
But time and graduation have a way of taking down even the mighty, and that's the challenge that now faces Newton. Gone is some of the depth, though certainly not the top-end quality.
Seniors Maggie Remsberg and Kalli Anderson will have Newton in the team chase once again. Remsberg is a four-event star, a gold medal hopeful in the long jump as well as two hurdling events. She also runs a leg on Newton's 4 X 100 relay, which won the state title the past two years.
Fellow senior Anderson has been a Kansas star since she was a freshman. She was the 100 meter state champion in 2017, and the runner-up as a freshman and junior. Anderson has the top returning times in both the 100 and 200 entering the 2019 season.
Savannah Garcia also is a top medal contender for Newton this year.
So it is dangerous to count Newton out, even though for the first time in four years, they are likely not the preseason favorite for the 4A girls state title.
That distinction would likely go to either St. James Academy - the state runner-up the past two years - or Blue Valley Southwest.
It's absolutely no secret what St. James' key to victory is: they will flat out smack you in the face in the middle distance and distance races. Junior Katie Moore is the defending state champion in the 400 and runner-up in the 800. Fellow junior Sarah Murrow - the reigning state champion in cross country -- is the preseason No. 1 in the 1600 and 3200.
To that mix, St. James adds Hannah Robinson (800 and 1600) and sophomore sensation Mary O'Connor (1600 and 3200). St. James also is the defending state champs and state record holders in the 4 X 400 and 4 X 800 relays.
Blue Valley Southwest is a bit more rounded. Pole vaulter Briana Lowe enters the season in a tie for the best returning mark from a year ago (10-6), and javelin throwers Lowe and Samantha Schnitta have two of the top four marks coming back this year.
Sprinter Emily Ervin is a top three contender in the 100, 200 and 400 (she won the state title in the 200 as a freshman), while Hannah Turner could win the 400. Blue Valley Southwest has a strong core of distance runners, led by cross country state runner-up Gigi Loffredo.
Bishop Carroll and Pittsburg have a good shot at a top three team finish. Bishop Carroll's Taylor Linn (pole vault), Kindel Nordhus (100 hurdles and 300 hurdles) and Isabella Hohl (100 and 200) are in the mix for individual state titles. Pittsburg's Faith Turner is a four-event standout, with a very good chance to win the triple jump, long jump and 100 meters.
Pittsburg's Laken Robinson has the No. 1 returning mark in the 5A girls high jump.
Of the 15 individual events, nine state champions return in
class 5A girls. And the division adds more star power in two schools that have
moved up from class 4A: McPherson's Emma Ruddle was the 2018 state champ in the
100 meters and 100 hurdles; and Spring Hill's Maddie Rivers (javelin) and Izzy Williams (200) won class 4A state titles in 2018.
The 5A boys, however, aren't just a side show to the ladies. In fact, class 5A is where perhaps the state's most powerful boys' team resides.
Bishop Carroll scored a whopping 119 points to win the 2018 state title, and much of the power behind that win is back this season. That includes a pole vault trio that could sweep the top three spots at state this year - Ethan Hull, Aj McCormick and Brian Simon.
Hull was the state champion in the pole vault a year ago (clearing 14-0), and McCormick was second (13-6). Simon was not able to clear the opening height, but enters this season with the No. 4 mark in class 5A from last year.
Bishop Carroll may have come back to the pack a bit, though, and distance-heavy St. Thomas Aquinas may have the best shot to take away the state title. Two-time state cross country champion and Gatorade Runner of the Year Ethan Marshall and Reece Jones will cover the 800, 1600, and 3200, and the Saints have the depth to put together a strong 4 X 800 relay, as well.
Valley Center's Larry Wilson enters the new season with the top returning times in the 100 and 200; he placed third and second at state in those two events last year. Hurdler Zach Williams is the top-ranked 110 meter hurdler heading into the season.
St. James Academy has distance strength in the form of Jack Moore and John Matulis, while McPherson will bring some power in the field events in Dawson Vangoethem and Jori VanGoethem (discus) and Cody Stufflebean (javelin). McPherson's Brandon Yowell should be in the mix in the 100 and 200 meters.
Class 5A at a glance
Returning Individual State Champions
Pole vault - Taylor Linn, senior, Bishop Carroll
Triple jump - Turner, junior, Pittsburg
* Ruddle won her state titles in class 4A last year
** Spring Hill's Williams and Rivers won state titles in class 4A last year
2018 Top Five Teams
1) Newton 87
2) St. James Academy 76
3) Pittsburg 70
4) Mill Valley 69.5
5) Blue Valley Southwest 63
Milesplit Projection for 2019 (does not include potential points for relays)
1) Blue Valley Southwest 77
2) St. James Academy 68
3) Newton 51
4) Bishop Carroll 49
5) Pittsburg 43
Returning Individual State Champions
2018 Top Five Teams
1) Bishop Carroll 119
2) Shawnee Heights 79
3) Liberal 57
4) Mill Valley 37
5) Emporia 35
MileSplit Projection for 2019 (does not include potential points for relays)
1) Bishop Carroll 57
2) St. Thomas Aquinas 50
3) Valley Center 39
4) St. James Academy 36.5
5) McPherson 35.5