It would be a mistake for the state's 3A boys cross country teams to think that the well has finally run dry for two-time defending state champion Southeast of Saline.
Truth is, that engine is revving mighty pretty these days.
Southeast of Saline returns all seven runners from its 2019 championship squad, including individual state champion Dylan Sprecker, now a junior. Last year's win was the seventh state championship for Southeast of Saline's boys.
The squad also brings back seniors Dominic Jackson and Luke Gleason, who finished fourth and fifth at last year's state meet. The three runners make up what could be the best trio in Kansas cross country right now - regardless of classification.
Southeast of Saline won the state title last year in a close battle with upstart Silver Lake. Southeast of Saline scored 35 while Silver Lake had 44 - more than 70 points ahead of third place Norton Community.
But while Southeast of Saline brings everyone back, Silver Lake loses two of its top five, including 2019 state runner-up Kyler Kaniper. Silver Lake may have enough to stay in the top 3, but their graduation losses seem to leave no one to challenge Southeast of Saline.
Using Kansas MileSplit's virtual meets app, Southeast of Saline is predicted to score 38 points for this year's state title. Silver Lake leads a pack that includes Smoky Valley and Wichita Collegiate that is 200 or more points back.
That's right...Two Hundred Points!
It may not turn out to be so lopsided, but the point is clear. Southeast of Saline is as big of a favorite to repeat as 3A state champs as we've seen in Kansas cross country for a while.
The race for the class 3A girls state title is likely to be a lot more close than the boys' chase. The early favorites are familiar: defending champion Norton Community, runner-up Southeast of Saline and third-place Southwestern Heights.
Give the early edge to Southeast of Saline, which returns its top five from a year ago, including defending state champion Jentrie Alderson, tenth place finisher Ashley Prochazka and junior Mallorie Pearson.
Like its' boys team, the Southeast of Saline girls have won seven state championships in its history, most recently back-to-back titles in 2014-2015.
Norton Community won by 18 points last year, but the squad loses two of its top five from that team, including 2018 state champion Lexi Kats, who finished fourth in 2019. Expected back for the Bluejays are senior Hannah Bailey and sophomore Jaelyn Rumback.
Southwestern Heights was just three points behind Southeast of Saline for second place last year, and that squad returns all seven who ran at state. The squad's top returner is junior Ozia Trujillo, who was eighth at state in 2019. Senior Arlin Testa and junior Yanely Puentes also return for Southwestern.
But all three teams have questions to answer on the back end of their lineup and until those sort themselves out, it's hard to say who will climb to the top of the podium in October.
The individual race in class 3A girls is solid. Six of the top 10 at the state meet last year are back this season. In addition to Alderson, Trujillo and Prochazka, those include Silver Lake sophomore Mariah Farmer (sixth at state last year), Columbus sophomore Montana Ohmart (seventh) and West Franklin sophomore Emma Bailey (ninth).