Wichita Southeast Invitational Lives Up to the Hype

History was made on the Cessna Activities Center course at the Wichita Southeast Invitational this Saturday. Heading into the meet there was big hype surrounding the girl’s showdown which featured many of Kansas’ best. Avery Clifton of Washburn Rural headlined the field as the top XC runner in Kansas, and boasting a 3,200m PR of 10:40. The field also included freshmen sensation Kaelyn Balch of Bishop Carroll, and defending 5A champ Mackenzie Maki of Kapaun Mt. Carmel. Not to mention several other 5A & 6A state medalists.
The girl’s race did not disappoint. The pace was blazing from the start.  Despite their best efforts of the field, less than half a mile in only Avery Clifton and Balch remained at the front.  The two alternated leads throughout, passing the mile mark in an unbelievable 5:13.  Finally, utilizing a slight uphill after 1.5 miles in Clifton began to separate.  In the end, we may have seen two of the truly special runners in Kansas history square off for the only time in their cross country careers. The end result was a new standard for Kansas cross country excellence. Clifton and Balch posted the #1 (13:48) and #2 (14:01) 4k times in the nation thus far, and totally obliterated a very solid field.  To help put it in perspective Mackenzie Maki posted the 25th fastest time in the nation and was still one minute behind Clifton.  In the team race, Bishop Carroll's team strength and depth was impressive as they triumphed over Clifton's team (and 6A contender) Washburn Rural.
Despite having a tough act to follow, the men's race kept the excitement level high with a terrific race between Washburn Rural and Haysville Campus.  Rural was led by senior Aaron Pope, who won in a personal record 16:11. Splitting up Pope and teammate Jacob Morgan (16:30) was Hutch's Cameron Sprague, who turned in a 16:25 on the quick course.  Campus established slight edges over Rural at 4 and 5, but fell 48 to 50 on the strength of Rural's top 2.  Bishop Carroll did not race their top athletes, saving them for next week's Rim Rock invite.

Special thanks to Luke Wiens for the photo's and information on the meet.