Kansas MileSplit reporter Pat Melgares is previewing this week's state cross country championships. Today, we look at class 2A, and will continue with classes 3A to 6A through Thursday.
It might seem like one race is taking place when the class 2A boys and girls toe the line on Saturday at the Wamego Country Club, but actually there will be two races at once. A race within the race, if you will.
From my view, there is a cluster of individuals battling for the win, yet very few of those individuals will have a direct impact on who takes home the big team trophy.
That sets up for a strange kind of meet, because normally the top individuals are leading the best teams. Just not this year...at least not in this division.
Henry Nelson of Bishop-Seabury, third in the class 2A meet a year ago, is rightfully the favorite heading into this year's meet. He's spent the last two years chasing two of Kansas' best over that time - Yates Center's Hadley Splechter and Meade's Ethan Thompson. Now a senior, it may be Nelson's turn to rise to the top.
Except that there's a big group of runners that have their sights set on winning gold, as well. That group includes Stanton County's Isiah Barrera, Jefferson County North's Trevor Pentlin, and Trego Community's Wyndom Giefer, who finished fifth through seventh at last year's state meet.
Six of the top 10 from last year return, including Jackson Heights sophomore Daniel Little, who has run the fastest time in class 2A this season (16:23.9), and won the Alma-Wabaunsee regional on Saturday. Little was ninth at the state cross country meet a year ago, and ran 2:02 for 800 meters and 4:36 for 1600 on the track last spring.
The girls may out-do the boys, however. The lead pack of girls could be as many as 10 well into the race, including a pair of freshman from Stanton County that have proved they belong in the conversation for the class 2A title. Chesney Peterson has the division's second best time this season at 19:25, and her freshman teammate Suzanne Farnham is seventh best at 20:13.
The top returner in class 2A girls is Kansas City Christian's Alysia Wagner, who placed second at last year's championships. Wagner has just the tenth best time in class 2A this season, but she did win the Central Height regional this weekend (20:09) and the junior varsity race at this year's Rim Rock Farm Classic in September. She's also the 3200 meter state champ from last spring.
Others likely to be in the mix for the individual state title include Trego Community's Sybil Giefer, whose sister Helen was the state champ a year ago; Ellinwood's Erin Hammeke; Bennington's Ashlyn Harbaugh and Peyton Peipho; McLouth's Reagan Clark; and Bishop Seabury's Oona Nelson.
Of that bunch, I like Trego Community's Giefer to win. She
clocked 19:30 to win the Wamego Invitational in September, beating Hammeke and
Harbaugh. She's also racked up a slew of wins this season, and
seems to have the fire in her belly to carry that through Saturday's race. She was third at state a year ago.
The team titles are a different animal. Most of the top individuals aren't coming with teams that are rich in depth, so you're likely to see the state championship decided by many of the runners who aren't winning individual medals.
In the boys' chase, that means a big key will be who can push through the most runners around the 18:00 mark. On the girls' side, look for the team that can get their runners in around 22:00.
I'm thinking the team most likely to do that is Stanton County - twice! Barrera leads the boys' team, though they will have to scratch and claw against very capable teams from Trinity Catholic (led by senior Michael Maldonado), McLouth (led by freshman Henry Cloyd) and defending champion Central Heights (led by senior Tyler Stevenson).
Stanton County's girls are somewhat an exception, as they should get high finishes from Peterson and Farnham, but they too will have to rely on depth to win. They're going to get a tussle from Rossville (led by junior Julia Streit) and Bennington (led by Harbaugh and Peipho)
Class 2A Snapshot
Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Wamego Country Club
Boys Start: 12:55 p.m.
Girls Start: 11:10 a.m.
Defending team champions: Central Heights (boys); Ellinwood (girls)
2019 Kansas MileSplit Predictions
Boys individual champion: Henry Nelson, Bishop-Seabury
Girls individual champion: Sybil Giefer, Trego Community
Boys team champion: Stanton County
Girls team champion: Stanton County