This week, Kansas MileSplit reporter Pat Melgares will preview the state's cross country scene. Today, we look at class 2A boys and girls (the 1A preview has already been published), and will follow with 3A through 6A throughout the week.
If you happened to watch the Kansas class 2A boys and girls state championships in Wamego a year ago, then you probably have a good idea of what to expect in the 2019 season.
Three-fourths of the medal winners at last year's class 2A state meet return this year, while the race for team titles also looks eerily similar to a year ago.
What you won't see, however, is Hadley Splechter, Kansas' best distance runner regardless of classification a year ago, who now dons the purple and white of Kansas State University. Splechter, from Yates Center, swept the 1600, 3200 and cross country titles in this division the past two years.
Henry Nelson of Bishop-Seabury seems to be the heir to Splechter's throne. The senior standout was third at state a year ago, and has never finished outside the top 10 at the state cross country meet. His best time a year ago - 16:17 - is nearly 40 seconds better than any other returning runner in class 2A this season.
The class 2A boys' race will have six of the top 10 from the state meet returning this season, and 13 of the top 20. Some of the top challengers for the individual crown include Isiah Barrrera of Stanton County (fifth at state last year), Trevor Pentlin of Jefferson County North (sixth), Wyndom Giefer of Trego Community (seventh) and Tyler Stevenson of Central Heights (eighth).
With Stevenson and fellow senior Alex Cannady, Central Heights seems to be the clear preseason favorite for the class 2A boys team title. Stanton County, the runner-up a year ago, is right in the mix again, while Trinity Catholic is a strong contender to make the podium at state.
The class 2A girls team title is a toss-up, with as many as seven or eight teams looking like strong preseason contenders. There are certainly no power teams in the class 2A girls ranks right now.
But there is a school with a ton of cross country tradition - Bennington. They may be the popular pick right now because they do have one of the best runners in the division in sophomore Ashlyn Harbaugh - who finished fourth at state last year as a sophomore, leading her team to a third place finish.
The problem Bennington will have to solve - as will other teams in this division - is how to build depth behind their top runners.
Alysia Wagner of Kansas City Christian is the top individual returner from a year ago, but her school has rarely fielded a full team at state. Sybil Giefer of Trego Community was third at state last year, helping her team to a runner-up finish, but the squad is now minus Helen Giefer - Sybil's sister - who runs for Kansas State University.
Others girls teams hoping to find some depth to challenge for a state title are Stanton County, Central Heights, Jayhawk Linn and Republic County. Lily Meyer of Central Heights leads her team into the season, while Kate Dawson heads up Jayhawk-Linn's chances. Mary Grace Goettling and Ashley Marrietta may provide a powerful 1-2 for St. Mary's Colgan.
CLASS 2A PRESEASON RANKINGS
As determined by Kansas MileSplit
Preseason prediction for individual state champs
Girls - Alysia Wagner, Kansas City Christian
Boys - Henry Nelson, Bishop-Seabury