2009 6A Cross Country Preview

6A Boys

The 6A boys field was hit the 2nd hardest to graduation out of all the classes (40 total), but only lost 6 medalists. Basically there’s a big hole in the middle of the pack.  The top 20 returners all broke 17:00 last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a sub 16:40 (in similar conditions) to medal this year (16:46 was 20th last year). Up front you have 4 of the top 5 returning with Roy Wedge of Lawrence being the top returner, and preseason favorite.   I think there are probably a handful of guys that could challenge him. SMNW has Aaron Thornburg (3rd last year) & Sterling Spencer (2nd in 2007). Jacob Morgan of Washburn Rural was 4th last year as a freshman and only 10 seconds back of him, so he definitely has the potential. Robby Martinez-Garcia of Wichita NW was only 16th last year, and is more of a mid-distance type, but he did beat Wedge at state in the 3200 so you can’t rule him out either. And as was proved last year with Brayden Barrientez going from 36th in 2007 to state champ in 2008, there are several other guys that could be in there with a solid summer of training under their belt.   It will be no small task though, and could very well take a sub 16 to win it. In the team battle it’s easy to see who the top 4 returning teams are, but then it gets real difficult to separate. 
Top 5 Returning Teams
5 – Blue Valley West – this was a hard one, but I took a look around at the JV squads of a bunch of teams, and BV West’s was among the best last year. So you take that and add it to their 4 guys they return from last year (17:33 avg), and you get 5th in the preseason rankings. 
4 – Olathe East has 5 coming back from their squad that placed 9th last year. Ryan Hocker is their top returner after placing 5th last year, and they have Andrew Sheets who was a state qualifier in the 3200. They will need to get their 3-5 to move up to be competitive at the top.
3 – Washburn Rural returns 6, and has some excellent firepower up front. Jacob Morgan and Aaron Pope are the 3rd and 7th returners overall, and Alex Maafey is the 22nd. They will have to close their pack time down to their 4th and 5th runners in order to have a chance at 1st or 2nd.
2 – Shawnee Mission NW – The Cougars bring back an excellent top 4, and always have great depth on JV to reload from. I have them deadlocked with Lawrence if you score 4. Aaron Thornburg, Keaton Jones, and Sterling Spencer are all exceptionally talented guys (all around 4:31/9:45 or faster as freshmen) and will put a hurtin’ on you up front. They certainly can’t be counted out from coming back to win another state title for SMNW this year, but they’ll have to find a great 5th.
1 – Lawrence pulled out the upset over the juggernaut SMNW last year after steady improvement all season long, and coming up big at state. They were able to end the streak by virtually matching SMNW’s top 3, and then beating them with their 4-5. In addition, their 6th man was only 1 place behind SMNW’s and their 7th man was 3 ahead of SMNW’s.   They only lose their 2nd man off that team, and should be fired up to defend the 6A title on their home course. Roy Wedge leads them as the individual 6A favorite. They have Joseph Springer and Calvin Morgan as the 11th and 13th overall returners, and their 4th and 5th returners (Simon Fangman and Zach Andregg) could be real dangerous as they were only freshmen last year.
Roy Wedge and the Lawrence Lions rose to the occasion big time in 2008.
Top 20 Returning Individuals

 2 Wedge, Roy                11 Lawrence              16:08.46    2            
 3 Thornburg, Aaron          10 SM Northwest        16:16.80    3            
 4 Morgan, Jacob              9 Washburn Rural       16:18.03    4            
 5 Hocker, Ryan              11 Olathe East           16:21.25    5            
 8 Stevens, Andrew           11 SM South              16:27.49                 
 9 Spencer, Sterling         10 SM Northwest          16:27.99    8            
 12 Pope, Aaron               11 Washburn Rural      16:32.45   11            
 14 Jones, Keaton             11 SM Northwest          16:36.12  13            
 15 Sloan, Logan              10 Lawrence-Free State   16:36.44                 
 16 Martinez-Garcia, Robby    11 Wichita Northwest 16:37.29                 
 17 Springer, Joseph          10 Lawrence              16:39.33   14             
 18 Nooney, Brock             11 Wichita Haysvill      16:44.40   15            
 19 Morgan, Calvin            11 Lawrence              16:45.86   16            
 20 Craighead, Jeremiah       11 SM North            16:46.39   17            
 23 Fangman, Simon             9 Lawrence             16:55.96   19            
 24 Ward, Nick                11 Wichita Haysvill      16:56.29   20            
 25 Ramundo, Peter            11 Manhattan           16:57.80   21            
 26 Metler, Neil              11 Derby                      16:58.57   22            
 28 Scott, Justin             11 Blue Valley West      16:59.41   24            
 29 Bhakta, Rajarshi          11 Junction City         16:59.76                 

6A Girls
 2008 was a very competitive year for 6A girls (21 points separated 2nd through 5th), and 2009 should be no different.  Every team from state last year returns at least 5 runners, except for SMNW who return 4.  The top 3 returners are all seniors, followed by 6 sophomores, and then three more seniors.  The top 10 should be very fast as there are several girls that have run around 11:35 and faster, topped off with Dani Walker (3rd last year) with a 2:17 & 5:04 at state, and defending champ Avery Clifton of Washburn Rural with a 5:02 & 10:40 on her resume. 
Avery Clifton closing out her 2008 path of destruction.
Top 5 Returning Teams
5 – Blue Valley NW returns 5 from last year’s 7th place team. They are solid up front with Catie Miller and Anna Roxberg, and have excellent depth (had the best 7th runner at state last year) to give just about anyone some trouble.
4 – Shawnee Mission NW brings back an excellent group of 4. Lisa Imgrund and Christine Nelson were 2nd and 4th in the 3200 at state which gets them off to a great start. They can be a title threat if they find someone to fit between their returning 4. 
3 – Washburn Rural brings back 6 and only has one senior in the bunch. That senior is a big one though, in defending champ Avery Clifton. Clifton posted times in the 1600 (5:02.04) & 3200 (10:40.09) which rank her 19th & 9th All-Time in Kansas. They back her up with a solid pack of 3 sophomores & two juniors. If they can close the gap down to their 5th they will be tough to beat.
2 – Shawnee Mission South – The raider girls were one fearsome pack last year, and they return 6 from that bunch. They have the best returning #5 in the state, but no real front runners yet. Hayley Cline and Jordyn Smith lead them as top 20 overall returners. If they can improve on that front end power there may be no stopping them.
1 – Derby brings back 5 from their team that won the first ever 6A girls title for a school outside the Northeast part of the state. They’re led by the sophomore duo of Emily Hornbeck and Amber Green who placed 11th and 12th last year. They have a real solid 3rd in Tori Lewis, and 4th in Valerie Nielson (who made a meteoric rise from JV to 42nd in 6A in her first year running). They will most likely have to close the gap to their 5th in order to make it two in a row.
Top 20 Returning Individuals

 1 Clifton, Avery            11 Washburn Rural        14:59.91    1            
 3 Walker, Dani              11 Maize                 15:25.81    3            
 4 Imgrund, Lisa             11 SM Northwest          15:36.02    4            
 8 Ellis, Brooklyn            9 Olathe East           15:43.96    6            
 9 Ballinger, Megan           9 Goddard               15:44.23    7            
 11 Hornbeck, Emily            9 Derby                 15:50.31    9            
 12 Green, Amber               9 Derby                 15:52.40   10             
 13 Eichkorn, Amber            9 Wichita North         15:53.43                 
 15 Heikkinen, Brianna         9 Manhattan             5:57.06   12            
 16 Flannigan, Morgan   11 Lawrence-Free State 16:01.18   13            
 17 Schoen, Kacie             11 Leavenworth           16:02.06                 
 19 Ellis, Brenda             11 Olathe East           16:06.69   14            
 21 Stradinger, Hanna Jane    10 SM East               16:07.92                  
 22 Miller, Catie             10 BV Northwest          16:08.42   15            
 23 Cline, Hayley             11 SM South              16:11.24   16            
 24 Roxberg, Anna             10 BV Northwest          16:11.90   17             
 26 McBride, Ashley           11 Olathe South          16:14.61   19            
 28 Smith, Jordyn             10 SM South              16:19.26   21            
 29 Dixon, Dakota             11 Blue Valley West      16:19.88                  
 32 Smith, Christina          10 Manhattan             16:27.72   24