Two-time class 6A girls state champs Mill Valley will test its pack-attack mentality against class 5A teams this year. (Kansas MileSplit photo by Alex Walters)
The Kansas cross country scene was rocked Friday morning when the Kansas State High School Activities Association released its annual update on school classifications.
The landscape shifted significantly in every division as KSHSAA made changes based on the Sept. 20 enrollment counts.
Most years, there is a change or two that moves the balance of power in two or three cross country divisions. This year, every division will feel the effects of changing enrollments across the state.
Among the top storylines from Friday's announcement:
* Berean Academy, last year's state champs in class 1A boys and runner-up in 1A girls, will move to class 2A.
* Mill Valley, the two-time class 6A girls state champions, is heading back to class 5A.
* Cormick Logue of Girard, the defending state champion in the class 4A boys chase, will try to win in class 3A this year.
The class 1A boys team title is a wide open race with Berean Academy moving up a division. There should be quite a battle at state between Meade, Olpe and Quinter. Berean's boys were nearly 100 point favorites to win the class 1A title before Friday's changes.
Berean had five of the top eight individual runners in class 1A this season, and immediately becomes a contender in class 2A, where it will match up with defending champion Stanton County - a giant in 2A already. Berean's Andrew Harder and Drew Janzen were ranked No. 2 and 3 in class 1A and will have a shot at the class 2A individual state title.
Berean's girls also were ranked No. 1 in class 1A, though they were expecting a tussle with last year's champ Doniphan West and third-place Lincoln. In class 2A, they will tangle with defending champion Stanton County and this year's No. 1 ranked St. Marys-Colgan team.
Berean will have to prove that they can find the depth needed to put five scorers on the board, rather than just four that they needed in class 1A. On paper - based on times in MileSplit's database so far this season - Berean's girls become the underdog in the class 2A state title chase.
Girard's move from class 4A to 3A means that Logue - who has the state's fastest time of 15:17 this season - will take on that division's defending state champion Dylan Sprecker of Southeast of Saline.
Sprecker is dealing with an injury right now, but if he can regain his form by the end of October, it could make for an interesting fight.
It does, however, leave 4A with just a little less intrigue. A year ago, Logue, Hayden's Tanner Newkirk and Buhler's Tanner Lindahl put on an exciting, back-and-forth battle for the 4A individual title. There was building excitement among Kansas cross country fans to see the rematch between those three this year.
Newkirk and Lindahl and anyone else who emerges over the
next few weeks will have to carry that flame forward. Newkirk was last year's runner-up; Lindahl won the 4A state title as a freshman in 2018, and was third last year.
Girard also had the top-ranked boys team in class 4A. That lofty status likely won't hold in class 3A, where Southeast of Saline is the two-time defending champion, and has the depth to keep it clear of the class 3A field. With Sprecker out right now, however, and his status for late October maybe uncertain, the team race could get exciting again.
Mill Valley's girls put on a powerful display in winning class 6A girls titles the past two seasons. Both times, they were a young team, and most of the runners who led those winning efforts still suit up for the Jaguars this year.
That includes Katie Schwartzkopf, who won the 6A state title as a freshman and was the runner-up a year ago. So far this season, she's run as the squad's second or third runner, indicating the strength of the Mill Valley team.
Even so, they may not become the team to beat in class 5A. They join a packed field that includes Maize South, Great Bend, Kapaun-Mt. Carmel, Bishop Carroll and St. Thomas Aquinas. Any of those teams could emerge as state champions; adding Mill Valley to the mix makes the class 5A girls race more of a free-for-all than it already was.
Olathe West and Olathe North are the clear favorites to replace Mill Valley atop the 6A girls chase, even before Friday's changes.
Mill Valley's boys were ranked No. 3 in class 6A. Their move to class 5A puts them in a field of teams chasing six-time defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas, which seems to be just too powerful again this season for anyone to catch. Mill Valley, though, could very well be the best of the rest.
For a complete list of changes to the state's classifications, go tohttp://www.kshsaa.org/Public/General/Classifications.cfm.