Rural Sweeps Topeka Titles Heading into Postseason

Hannah Grove of Sunrise Christian, right, wins the Heartland Christian Athletics title

The sixth full weekend of the Kansas cross country season has typically been a mixed bag for many of the state's coaches and athletes.

It's often thought of as the calm before the storm, the last weekend before the important trifecta of league-regional-state meets. The last weekend, that is, before championship season.

So, some teams choose to take a little break. Some rest their varsity runners. Others treat it as a final tune-up before racing for titles the next three weeks.

Washburn Rural's boys and girls teams used the weekend to build momentum for the season's final stretch. The Blues swept the team titles at the Topeka City Championships, run on rolling hills at Shawnee Lake.

Rural senior Rylan Brown won the boys' race in a time of 16:29, out-dueling senior teammate Caleb Wright (16:37) and Hayden sophomore Tanner Newkirk (16:57). Shawnee Heights' Kylie Phillips, a senior, won the girls' chase in 20:24. Washburn Rural's girls got a 2-3-4 finish from freshmen Madeline Carter (20:46) and Heidi Schieber (20:56) and junior Christina Funk (21:01).

Seaman was the runner-up in both the boys' and girls' races. The Vikings were led by senior Taegan Loy (fifth, 17:13.5) and junior Megan Allacher (ninth, 21:49).

A State Champ...Already! Hannah Grove of Sunrise Christian continued a dominating year in the Heartland Christian Athletic Association, winning the HCAA State Championship in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

The freshman had previously won titles in the 400, 800 and 1600 last spring, and added the cross country title on Saturday in a time of 18:50. It was the second fastest time run by a Kansas girl this past week.

More Speedy Freshmen. We saw a lot of fast freshmen girls doing some pretty great things in Kansas this week.

In El Dorado, three freshmen broke away from the pack and battled it out for the individual title. Eventually, Emporia's Elizabeth Willhite got the better of the fight, winning in a season-best of 20:04. Jocelyn Sosa of Garden City was second in 20:06, while Addie Curtis of Kapaun-Mt. Carmel - who won the Emporia Invitational earlier this season - was third at 20:16.

Freshman Grace Hanson of Piper came oh-so-close to breaking the 20 minute barrier this week, winning the Louisburg Invitational in 20:00.86. It's her second individual win of the season; she also has a pair of runner-up finishes in her inaugural high school season.

Another freshman girl getting an individual win this week was Tattiana Bland of Sumner Academy, who beat everyone to the line at the Wyandotte County Invitational (23:02).

Best Race of the Week? I'm going to go with the girls' race at the Sterling Invitational, where 11 runners came roaring in under 20:00. The times seemed fast for several of the athletes, so maybe the course was a tad short, but I'm more drawn by the wave of runners battling down to the finish.

Mayra Ramirez of Great Bend ran a great race to win in 19:11, but she was chased closely by Ellinwood's Erin Hammeke (19:18), Berean Academy's Brooke Wiebe (19:22), Pratt's Addie Hoeme (19:23), Buhler's Leah Bentley (19:29), Great Bend's McKenna Esfeld (19:30), and Buhler's Emma Willison (19:31).

Great Bend, a 5A school, scored 41 points for a one-point win over class 4A Buhler, which posted a 37 second pack time.

A close runner-up for race of the week was the boys' chase at the Lakin Invitational, even though it involved several runners from a neighboring state. Guymon (Oklahoma), a class 5A school, won the meet handily, but the individual race featured a mad scramble for places down the last 50 meters.

Guymon's Henok Gebrekristos out-sprinted the pack to win in 17:13, while Stanton County's Isiah Barrera was right on his heels at 17:14. They were followed by Guymon's Brett Fields (17:16) and Mulu Gebresiluse (17:19) and Scott City's Eric Frances (17:20).

Around the State. Mill Valley's boys' and girls' squads - strong contenders for class 6A state titles this year - tuned up nicely with a pair of team wins at their home meet, the Mill Valley Cat Classic.

Senior Morgan Koca won the girls' race with the top time in Kansas this week, 18:42, while sophomore teammate and defending class 6A state champion Katie Schwartzkopf was the runner-up in 19:12.

Mill Valley's Darius Hightower took the win in the boys' race, clocking the second best time in the state this week, 16:11. He out-ran St. Thomas Aquinas' Aiden Higgerson, who had a solid 16:14 for second place.

Tanner Lindahl of Buhler put up the state's fastest time this week, cruising to the win at the Sterling Invitational in 16:01. Lindahl, a sophomore, won the class 4A state title as a freshman. He has been battling back from injury and seems to be rounding into championship form in the season's final month.

Michael Iyali of Wichita North, third at the class 6A state championships last year, tuned up nicely this week with a win at the El Dorado Invitational (16:36). He out-ran another pretty good runner, Treyson True of Emporia, who was second in 16:43.

* A team to watch: Great Bend's boys. They scored 24 points to crush the field at the Sterling Invitational, including defending class 4A state champion Buhler. Great Bend was led by a solid trio in Sage Cauley (third, 16:31), Collin Hammond (fourth, 16:33) and Kaiden Esfeld (fifth, 16:34).

Other meet winners this week included:

* Nolan Redeker of Olpe (17:04) and Heidi Grimmett of Marion (20:30) at the Eureka Invitational;

* Ryan Heline of Smoky Valley (18:01) and Taylor Briggs of Chapman (20:07) at the Ellsworth Invitational;

* Daniel Harkin of Manhattan (16:46) and Zoie Ecord of Maize (20:06) at the re-scheduled Bob Schmoekel Invitational in Junction City;

* Madison Sutterfield of Meade at the Lakin Invitational (19:12);

* Mykael White of Bonner Springs (17:23) and Maddy Walter-Sherretts of Leavenworth (20:32) at the Carl Owczarzak Fall Classic, hosted by Shawnee Mission West at Johnson County Community College;

* Kyle Haney of West Franklin (18:41) and Kate Dawson of Jayhawk-Linn (21:12) at the Central Heights Invitational;

* Jonah Andrews of Schlagle (18:49) at the Wyandotte County Invitational.

Regular Season Awards. Congratulations to the following runners who have posted the fastest times by class during the regular season. We hope for more fast times from all of you - and many others - as the championship season gets underway.

Seniors - Ryan Kinnane, Andover, 15:59.6; Morgan Koca, Mill Valley, 18:36

Juniors - Daniel Harkin, Manhattan, 15:11; Alexa Rios, Maize South, 18:49

Sophomores - Tanner Lindahl, Buhler, 16:01; Hope Jackson, Bishop Carroll, 18:31

Freshmen - Ty Brechler, Blue Valley West, 16:10; Aubree Blackman, Olathe West, 18:49