Top Team, Individual Battles Highlight Week 2

The second week of the cross country season in Kansas promised a nice helping of monster matchups that would give an early glimpse at just how well some of the state's top contenders have gotten themselves ready to chase state titles.

Mission Accomplished.

And we're also starting to get a picture of teams and individuals who could be new to the scene, such as the Olathe North girls team, which made class 6A powerhouse Mill Valley fight to their toenails for the win at the Olathe North Twilight late Saturday.

Led by senior Morgan Koca's individual win (18:36), Mill Valley won the meet with 70 points, but Olathe North's girls - a pretty good team the last couple years, but overshadowed by the two-time defending state champion boys' squad - was just six points behind in second place. The week before at the Greg Wilson Classic, Olathe North also finished second to Mill Valley, 23 points behind.

Mill Valley won the school's first-ever class 6A title in cross country last Fall, and they enter the 2019 season as a huge favorite to repeat. Defending class 6A state champ Katie Schwartzkopf, now a sophomore, was fourth in 19:02 on Saturday.

Maize South junior Alexa Rios ran a career best 18:49.2 for second place, while Olathe West's Aubree Blackman was a smidge behind at 18:49.7. Blackman is just a freshman and could be the new 'Young Lion' in the state this season.

St. James Academy, the defending state champs in class 5A, were a distant fourth, but the squad ran on Saturday without defending individual state champion Sarah Murrow. Senior Katie Moore placed seventh (19:11) to lead the Thunder this week.

The Mill Valley boys also entered Week 2 as a strong state title contender in class 6A, and they held serve, though they finished second to Blue Springs South in the team standings. Blue Springs South scored 94, while Mill Valley was second and defending class 5A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas was third with 114.

Senior Jack Terry led Mill Valley with a seventh place finish in 16:16, while Cameron Coad was 16th in 16:33. Aquinas was led by Logan Seger in sixth (16:14) and Aiden Higgerson in 15th (16:30).

Looking for a newcomer out of the Olathe North meet? How about the Olathe South boys, which finished fourth, but just five points behind Mill Valley and two behind Aquinas. Washburn Rural, the defending champs in the Centennial League that finished fifth in class 6A last year, was fifth on Saturday, led by seniors Rylan Brown in third (16:07) and Caleb Wright in fourth (16:08).

Kaden Cooley of Olathe West was the top Kansas finisher at the twilight meet, which began at 6 p.m. and finished on the Olathe North track. Cooley was the individual runner-up, clocking 16:02, which is the fastest cross country time run in Kansas this season.

Best Meet of the Week. Well, in my view, it goes to the Wamego Invitational, which is essentially a sneak preview of the best of the best in classes 1A through 4A. And, oh boy, we did get a great glimpse at some early-season madness.

First, the expected: Taylor Briggs of Chapman rolled to victory in the class 4A girls race, clocking 19:12 for a nearly-two minute victory over Buhler senior Daycee Dewindt (20:57). But Dewindt had bigger prizes in mind, namely her team's dominating victory over defending class 4A champion Baldwin.

Buhler scored 25 points to Baldwin's 81 to stamp itself as the early-season favorite to win the class 4A girls title in early November. Following DeWindt to the finish on Saturday were senior Emma Willison in fourth (21:02), junior Leah Bentley in fifth (21:22), junior Amaleigh Mattison (21:36), and freshman Lindsay Warner in eleventh (21:38). Buhler's pack time was an impressive 41 seconds.

Baldwin was led by sophomores Jana Landreth (sixth, 21:23) and Riley Smith (eighth, 21:31).

One of the most anticipated matchups of the day took place in the boys' 4A race where Central Christian's Collin Oswalt and Buhler's Tanner Lindahl squared off. Oswalt was moving up a few classes to compete, having swept the cross country, 1600 and 3200 titles in class 1A last year, while Lindahl won the 4A state title last year as a freshman.

This battle went to Oswalt, whose biggest challenge actually came from Hayden's Tanner Newkirk, a sophomore. The two dropped Lindahl, and battled it out from there, with Oswalt winning in 16:34. Newkirk placed second at 16:43, while Lindahl settled for third in 16:52.

Wamego pulled off what many might consider a big upset, winning the class 4A boys team title with 89 points. They beat defending state champion Buhler, which had 98. Circle, which was second at state last year, was third on Saturday with 114 points.

Wamego was led to the win by junior Jacob White in 12th place (18:06) and freshman Brady Stegman in 13th (18:10).

In the class 1A-3A girls race, Sybil Giefer of Trego Community won the individual title in a time of 19:30. Norton Community, led by defending class 3A state champion Lexi Kats in sixth (21:18), won the team title with 59 points, ahead of upstart Rossville (76) and Bennington (93).

The class 1A-3A boys chase went to a surprise winner. Silver Lake smoked the competition with 35 points, posting a nearly 70-point win over runner-up Norton Community (104). Senior Kyler Kaniper (4th, 18:08), sophomore Cameron TenEyck (8th, 18:37) and senior Gabe TenEyck (10th, 18:43) led the Eagles to the team win.

Henry Nelson of Bishop Seabury was the individual winner, clocking 17:05, while Connor Hall of Norton Community was second in 17:53.

Top Contenders go Head to Head at Emporia. There was a pretty good matchup in Emporia on Saturday, as well. Manhattan's Daniel Harkin - second in class 6A last season and the top returner from that division this year - went up against Andover's Ryan Kinnane, fourth in class 5A a year ago and the top returner in that division this year.

Harkin also had won the class 6A 3200 meters during the track season last May, and Kinnane was second in the class 5A 1600.

Harkin, Kinnane and Emporia's Treyson True - a pretty good runner in his own right - set the early pace, leaving the rest of the field by the one mile mark. But Harkin was a bit stronger on the switchback course, building a gap on Kinnane at the halfway mark and cruising to a win in 16:31.

Kinnane fought off the gutsy True for second in place in 16:46, while True crossed in 16:51.

Many at the Emporia meet also got their first look at Kapaun-Mt. Carmel's Addie Curtis, a promising freshman who ran away from the field for a win in 20:16. Manhattan's girls, third in class 6A last year, looked pretty good, too, finishing 2-3-5 with freshman Amelia Knopp (20:39), senior Ella Rosenkranz (20:41) and sophomore Jenna Keeley (20:50).

Taking on the Husker State. Lawrence Free State's boys, which appear to be loaded in their quest for the 6A state crown this season, certainly did all they could to uphold that lofty status. On Friday, the Firebirds traveled to the Millard South Invitational in Omaha and nabbed a solid third-place finish against several of Nebraska's top teams.

Lincoln Southwest won the meet with 65 points, followed by Millard West at 68 and Free State with 74.

Sophomore Ben Shryock, fourth at the class 6A state meet a year ago, was ninth in 16:33, just ahead of senior teammate Charles Johnson, who was tenth in 16:35. Lawrence Free State put up a 37 second pack time with sophomore Jack Keathley-Helms (16th, 17:01), junior Brock Cordova (17th, 17:01), and junior Ethan Sharp (22nd, 17:10).

Yep, Free State is pretty good this year, and they've only got one senior amongst their top five right now.

Free State's girls were seventh at the meet, led by Erin Fagan's 23rd place finish (20:23).

Kick of the week? How about the finish at the Greeley County Invitational, where Scott Community's Eric Francis edged Stanton County's Isiah Barrera. Francis was clocked in 18:14.64, while Barrera was about a half-second off, 18:15.18.

Barrera placed fifth in the class 2A state meet a year ago, so he's a game competitor for sure. He did get a little bit of redemption when his Stanton County team won the team title by seven points over Scott City.

Stanton County also won the girls' title, led by a 1-2 finish from a couple of freshmen - Chesney Peterson (20:39) and Suzanne Farnham (20:58). I'm thinking we will be hearing more of these two as the weeks and years go on...

Still rolling. Lincoln's Jaycee Vath, now a junior, showed this week she's still hungry to dominate the class 1A ranks. She won her ninth straight cross country race dating back to 2018, clocking 19:59 at the Stockton Invitational on Thursday.

Vath is the defending state cross country champion, and also swept the 1600 and 3200 titles on the track last spring.

In the boys' race, Cameron Delaney of Osborne won the Stockton Invitational in 17:50.

Around the state. In other cross country action this weekend, Michael Iyali of Wichita North took an easy stroll and won the River City Invitational in Wichita with a time of 17:08. Iyali placed third at the class 6A state championships last year, just a few seconds behind Manhattan's Harkin.

Brayden Rohr of Wichita Northwest placed second at the River City meet, clocking 17:53. Skye Kroskey of Wichita Northwest, a sophomore, won the girls' race in 21:54.

Wichita South's boys outdueled North for the team title. South was led by Tavion Porter in third (18:20), and Raziel Patton in fourth (18:45).

Juniors Jadyn Pavlik and Kennedy Nicholson of Goddard-Eisenhower finished 1-2 at the Wellington Invitational, leading their team to a perfect score at the Wellington Invitational. Pavlik won in 21:23.6, while Nicholson was second at 22:01.

Austin Fullerton of Goddard-Eisenhower, a senior, won the boys' race in 17:27, also leading his team to the win. Goddard-Eisenhower grabbed four of the top five individual spots in the race, and five of the top 8.