This week, Kansas MileSplit reporter Pat Melgares is previewing the state's cross country scene. Today, we look at class 4A boys and girls (the 1A-3A previews have already been published), and will follow with 5A and 6A the next two days.
It is a rarity in Kansas for a freshman boy to win the state cross country title - regardless of classification.
Both of those runners came up a little short in their sophomore seasons, but went on to win as juniors and seniors. They are among just nine Kansas boys all-time to have won three state cross country titles. No one in Kansas has ever won four boys state titles in the sport.
That brings us to Tanner Lindahl of Buhler. The soft-spoken sophomore becomes a terror when he laces on the racing spikes, as evidenced by his dominating win at the class 4A state meet last year. His time of 16:18 at Wamego was 37 seconds better than runner-up Craig Labrue of Winfield.
It's wa-a-a-a-ay early, and we don't want the hype machine to get out of control, but Lindahl's win does give him a shot at an unprecedented four state titles.
Lindahl suffered a stress reaction in a foot last spring, and was unable to run on the track, so we haven't seen him run a high school meet since his win in Wamego. He is healthy now, and looked pretty good in a team time trial a few days ago.
Winfield's Labrue is perhaps his biggest threat to a repeat win this year...and next. The junior has a career best time of 16:17 and comes out of a program that has produced some very good runners over the years.
Other individuals that could make some noise this season include Owen Roellchen of Piper (fourth at state last year), Jack Adams of Iola (eighth at state), Cole Bixler-Large of Clearwater (ninth) and Tanner Newkirk of Hayden (12th).
Buhler's boys are the defending state champs and they are the odds-on favorite to defend that title. In addition to Lindahl, the squad has four of the top 12 returners in class 4A this season, including Hayden Keller (17th at state in 2018).
Buhler won't have it easy, though. Circle returns nearly all of its boys' squad that posted a season-best 39-second pack time last year. Circle was the state runner-up to Buhler a year ago.
In girls class 4A, the theme is similar, though Chapman's Taylor Briggs is already halfway to becoming a four-time state champion. She's been dominating over her first two years, going a perfect 6-for-6 at the state cross country and track and field meets combined.
Right now, we don't see anyone beating Briggs, though Independence senior Renee Trout has run a faster personal record (18:27) than Briggs (18:43) in her career. Trout was the runner-up at state in 2017.
Riley Hiebert of Eudora was third at state last year, while Trinity Moore and Reese Johnson of Louisburg were fourth and sixth. Another one to watch is Adalynn Collins of Atchison, who was seventh at state a year ago.
The girls' team chase sets up to be a monster battle between defending champion Baldwin and Buhler. Both squads return several key runners from last year's teams that routinely put up pack times under 1:00.
Baldwin's the pick here, though, because that squad had a dominating 30-point win at state last year, and they return six of the top 7 from that team, including sophomores Jana Landreth, Riley Smith and Abby Patterson; and juniors Ambrynn Stewart, Lauren Russell and Tennyson Wilson.
Baldwin is loaded for this year...and next.
CLASS 4A PRESEASON RANKINGS
As determined by Kansas MileSplit
Preseason prediction for individual state champs
Girls - Taylor Briggs, Chapman
Boys - Tanner Lindahl, Buhler