This week, Kansas MileSplit reporter Pat Melgares is previewing the state's cross country scene. Today, we look at class 3A boys and girls (the 1A and 2A previews have already been published), and will follow with 4A through 6A the next three days.
They're the defending state champions, and they bring back the bulk of those teams that won convincingly at Rim Rock Farm a year ago. Repeat? Sure, but these teams even have the makings of what could be a three-peat next year.
Let's start with Scott Community's girls, which won the school's first-ever girls cross country state title with a dominating 30-point victory last year. The squad was led by freshman Clare Hawkins, who was sixth overall. Hawkins went on to place second in the 3200 and sixth in the 1600 on the track, and seems primed for another jump in her sophomore season.
She and junior Megan Vance are likely to lead Scott Community's repeat bid. The squad returns four of their top five from a year ago, and five of the top 7. The squad may have only two seniors on this year's team, which means this has the looks of a team that's primed for a winning streak.
Norton Community and defending state champion Lexi Kats may be the strongest challengers to Scott Community's bid to repeat, while upstart Rock Creek - which finished fourth last year with seven newcomers to the state meet - could find itself on the podium this year.
Southeast of Saline stayed mostly under the radar for much of the 2018 season, which was quite a trick for a program that had won five boys' and seven girls' state titles over the years.
But there was no hiding at state, where Southeast of Saline's boys posted a convincing 35 point win over Hugoton.
They did it by packing up their troops, led by Luke Gleason
in 12th place and Dylan Sprecker in 18th. Gleason, now a junior, and Sprecker,
a sophomore, head up the team which returns all of their top four, and six of
their top 7 this season. That pack is likely to move up the individual ranks at state, possibly into the top 10 this time around.
There's a group of teams fighting for second place, none yet
showing the type of depth it will take to catch Southeast of Saline. Among
those are Sabetha, Perry-Lecompton, Hiawatha and Clay Center. The question is who can find the depth needed to match what looks to be a loaded Southeast of Saline team?
There is likely to be more drama in the class 3A individual races.
Add Hannah Burks of Beloit to the mix and you've got the makings of one whale of a race for the class 3A girls title. Burks had a dominating regular season last year, and appeared to be a runaway favorite for the individual title, before settling for third at the state meet - just 15 seconds back of Kats and Murdock. The trio were set up for a great rematch on the track, but Burks missed the outdoor season, presumably due to injury.
If Burks is back and healthy, the battle on the grass will be electric in class 3A girls.
On the boys' side, a familiar name may once again rise to the top of the state's ranks. Cormick Logue of Girard is the preseason pick to win the class 3A title. If he does, he'll follow in the footsteps of his older sister, Cailie, who won four class 4A titles from 2013 to 2016.
Cormick has certainly done enough to make his own name, however. He was fourth at the state cross country championships a year ago, and runner-up in the 3200 meter run on the track. He has run more than 30 seconds faster on the Rim Rock course than any other returning runner in class 3A.
Jaret Pfizenmaier of Clay Center could be his closest contender. Others who might challenge for the state title are Ryan Heline of Smoky Valley, Ricky King of Norton Community and Justin Hodge of Hiawatha.
CLASS 3A PRESEASON RANKINGS
As determined by Kansas MileSplit
Preseason prediction for individual state champs
Girls - Lexi Kats, Norton Community
Boys - Cormick Logue, Girard