Kansas MileSplit reporter Pat Melgares is previewing this week's state cross country championships. Today, we look at class 3A, and will continue with 4A to 6A through Thursday.
On paper, the Kansas class 3A state cross country titles set up as a dual meet between one of the state's tradition-rich programs, and the new kid on the block.
Two good teams for sure, and if you've run the virtual meet in Kansas MileSplit's database, you know what I'm talking about.
The boys' list puts Silver Lake three points ahead of the defending champs for the class 3A championship. The two schools have the top five runners in the individual rankings. The next best team, Norton Community, falls more than 100 points behind the top two.
Silver Lake also takes the win on the girls' side, matching
Southeast of Saline's top-end strength, but winning out on depth in the fourth
and fifth position. Norton Community, which looked great in beating Southeast of Saline at this weekend's regional meet, could ruin the party.
But let caution be served: While the two teams very well could take the top two spots in each division, Southeast of Saline is the power-broker in this matchup.
The Trojans have won six boys and seven girls state titles since 1986. They have swept the class 3A state titles three times previously, in 1991, 1992 and 1993. And they are on a similar roll right now.
The boys' squad returns 6 of 7 who ran on the state championship team a year ago, including sophomore Dylan Sprecker and junior Luke Gleason, who just may be sprinting down the homestretch against one another for the individual state title on Saturday.
Silver Lake is pretty good, too, but they just may have picked a bad time to make a surge for the 3A title. They've got firepower in senior Kyler Kaniper, who has the state's best time of 16:08.7; and sophomore Cameron TenEyck, whose season-best is 16:54. They've been pushed this season by their brothers, senior Gabe TenEyck (17:03) and freshman Kamryn Kaniper (17:13).
The siblings ran those times to finish 1-4 at the Mid-East League meet two weeks ago, but officials determined afterwards that the course was a bit short - probably by 30-40 seconds.
While that may have been a bit of a bummer, it does not in any way diminish how good Silver Lake has become in cross country. The Eagles are legitimate state title contenders.
The story is quite similar on the girls' side. Silver Lake is pretty good, but are they good enough to overcome a Southeast of Saline team that is primed for its third state title in the past six years?
Sophomore Jentrie Alderson from Southeast of Saline is the top contender for the individual title, with the division's best time of 19:12 this season. Prior to this week's regional races, Silver Lake's Mariah Farmer is the only other class 3A girl to have run sub-20:00 this season; she was timed in 19:29 on the shortened league course.
The smart money says that Southeast of Saline's depth will win the day. After Alderson, the squad has medal contenders in freshman Ashley Prochazka, sophomore Mallorie Pearson, and seniors Jocelyn Pembleton and Taygen McBurney.
Silver Lake's Aubrey Bahner, a junior, could be in line for a top five finish.
Twin sisters Hayley Burks and Hannah Burks of Beloit have a great shot at denying Alderson the individual title. The seniors have experience at the state level, and enter with the third and fourth best times in class 3A this season. Emma Bailey, a freshman from West Franklin and regional champ, is the newcomer to watch.
Don't let the silence around defending champion Lexi Kats fool you. Kats, a senior from Norton Community, has not won a race all season, but over the course of the year, she's had an eerily similar progression to what she did last year - when she sprinted down the homestretch for a thrilling four-second win over Lara Murdock of Colby. She placed third at regionals this past weekend with a season-best time of 19:44. Kats' resurgence led Norton Community's 13-point team win over Southeast of Saline at regionals last weekend.
Class 3A Snapshot
Saturday, Nov. 2 at Rim Rock Farm, Lawrence
Boys Start: 11:45 a.m.
Girls Start: 10 a.m.
Defending team champions: Southeast of Saline (boys); Scott Community (girls)
2019 Kansas MileSplit Predictions
Boys individual champion: Dylan Sprecker, Southeast of Saline
Girls individual champion: Jentrie Alderson, Southeast of Saline
Boys team champion: Southeast of Saline
Girls team champion: Southeast of Saline