Flint Hills League Championship Recap

Council Grove's Jordyn Picolet won Thursday's Flint Hills League Championship in 20:29.82. Check out more photos from the races by Alex Walters here

Championship season is upon us and just in time, too. Thursday was one of the best days of the fall to run, and the times showed it at the Flint Hills League. Mission Valley was the host, making this a return trip for many who competed in the invitational in week 1. The course had a different feel for the championship race, however. The tall grass had turned gold and the chilly fall air had completely erased the memory of the late summer heat from the season opener. With league bragging rights on the line, this had the makings of a fun meet.

Leading off the day was the middle school girls. This one featured the top 7th grade girl in Kansas in Osage City's Emory Speece. She came out of the gate hard as usual. Central Heights 8th grader Melanie Chrisjohn set the pace for the rest of the pack at the #2 spot, followed by Mission Valley's Lillie Foster and Osage City's Jaiton Bosse. There was not much movement in this race, aside from Bosse moving up into 3rd during the middle portion. Speece crossed in 12:30, while Chrisjohn came through in 13:10. Bosse took bronze in 13:48. The duo of Speece and Bosse would help lead Osage City to win 21-23 over Mission Valley, even with Mission Valley having the next three runners through the line after Bosse. (The Flint Hills League ms races only score 4 runners)

The middle school boys took to the course next, it was a wire-to-wire battle at the front. West Franklin's Hunter Bailey and Central Heights' Connor Burkdoll are quite familiar with one another. They've met 3 times already this season, with two victories going to Bailey and one to Burkdoll. Each has been very close. Bailey set the pace for the majority of the race, with Burkdoll on his heels. Central Heights teammates Owen Miller and Cody Hammond were giving chase early as well. Midway, the two leaders had separated by at least 100 yards. Council Grove's Levi Waring had worked into 3rd place. As the leaders cut into the gate for the last 600 yards, it was still neck and neck. Burkdoll took the lead but only by a step. At 250 yards out, Bailey made his last move, but Burkdoll was able to respond with a final kick of his own to win by one second in 11:11. Council Grove's Levi Waring held off the rest of the Central Heights pack for 3rd in 11:50. Council Grove packed well, but Central Heights' front runners were enough to secure the league title. Thirteen of the top fourteen in this race were 8th graders, so expect a strong freshman class next season in the Flint Hills.

The girls race was an interesting one. Defending champion Emma Bailey of West Franklin has spent the bulk of the season recovering from a knee injury she suffered during basketball season. Lately though, she has been cutting time off and slowly returning to last year's form. At the start of the race, it was Bailey's teammate Lily Judd at the front, along with Council Grove's Jordyn Picolet. The Council Grove sophomore knew Judd was a 400 meter runner in track, so she wasn't going to let this race come down to a kick. She started to open it up after the mile mark, slowly opening a middle-mile gap of 14 seconds. Emma Bailey had started the race strong in 3rd place, but Central Heights' Taryn Compton came on strong as well to overtake her.

Picolet's lead would hold during the last mile, and she would win it with a 20:29, a 57-second personal best. Lily Judd would also PR in second place with a 20:57. Taryn Compton was 3rd in 21:32, while Gracy Smith and Emma Bailey rounded out the top 5. The team race was rather uninteresting, as there were only two full teams. Osage City took the title easily over Chase County. West Franklin had 3 of the top 6 but couldn't fill the 4 or 5 slots for a full team.

In the boys race, it was a week one rematch of AJ Rubio and Kodi Downes. Rubio, a Mission Valley native, had home-course advantage and won the early season matchup, but Council Grove's Downes had a more recent head-to-head victory from week 3's battle at the Orchard. Both were out of the gate hot, rolling through the mile at 5:11. West Franklin's Kyle Haner was a distinguished 3rd, while the leaders of the main pack were Luke Cotterof Central Heights and Brayden Marcotte of Lyndon.

Downes used his strength during the middle mile to pull away, opening a 40 yard gap. Rubio wasn't going to let it go that easily, though. With about 1200 yards to go, he had cut the lead in half and still had that competitive fire in his eyes. Downes glanced over his shoulder on one of the corners, though, and decided things were getting too close. He powered through the next stretch to secure the victory in 16:28. Rubio finished well in 16:46. Kyle Haner, caught in no-mans land for most of the race, was the next finisher in 17:31. Brock Lauer of Chase County emerged from the pack as the 4th place finisher, holding off Luke Cotter who finished 5th. Team-wise, West Franklin used the pack mentality well to win it with 40 points. This was their first FHL title since 2012, which also happened to be the last time Mission Valley hosted the meet. Expect the Falcons to contend for a regional title next week at the Anderson County regional meet.

Check out the full results of the meet here!