Smoky Valley's Ryan Heline (left, No. 3971) and Council Grove's Kodi Downes staged a photo-finish thriller at last Saturday's Southeast of Saline regional. Both are contenders for a top-five finish at this week's class 3A state championships in Wamego.
The Southeast of Saline cross
country machine has been alive and well this season.
Both boys and girls teams entered the 2020 season as favorites for state titles, both had 3A individual champions, and returned nearly everyone from last year, when the boys were the state champs and the girls were the runner-up.
This year, the Trojans swept boys and girls team titles at every regular-season meet leading up to regionals. It has, however, come with adversity.
To start, take a look at the girls roster from Saturday's regional. The Trojans lacked No. 2 and 3 runners Ashley Prochazka and Savannah Sutton, reportedly due to sickness. Defending state champion Jentrie Alderson was unable to finish her previous two races, so her status going into regionals was in question as well.
But the Trojans qualified for state anyway in what turned out to be a tough regional on their home course. Alderson out-battled Smoky Valley's Gracie Lambert, both of whom will contend individually at this week's class 3A state championships at the Wamego Country Club. Wichita Trinity took the meet with a two-point upset of Southeast of Saline; it was the first 3A regional title for the Lady Knights.
Southeast of Saline is expected to be back out in full force for state, however, so Trinity will have their work cut out for them to pull off another win this week.
Also standing in their way will be a slew of western Kansas teams. Scott Community is always a tough out, and they have the fastest team average in Class 3A from their league meet in Goodland. Their GWAC rivals, Cimarron, also qualified from that regional and will have a shot at the podium.
Thomas More Prep and Norton had a close dual in their regional. Not a duel, but a dual. They were the only two full teams in the meet. Talk about regional balance, right? Good thing both teams are state-quality teams.
Individually, we'll see a clash of runners from all over the state. Thirty-six girls made it without a team this year, including Colby's Lara Murdock, who has the fastest time in Class 3A at 18:51. Minneapolis, which always seems to have someone upfront, has a pair of contenders in Maddy Krueger and Alayna Cossaart. Both have had impressive seasons.
Southwestern Heights sophomore Ozia Trujillo has emerged this season as well. As a freshman, she placed eights at state. This year, you can expect her to nearer the front of the pack at state, just as she was in her regional win over the weekend.
In Class 3A boys, Southeast of Saline had little struggles without defending state champion Dylan Sprecker for most of this season. He had a stress reaction for the bulk of the season but was able to return for the league meet.
Sprecker again was unavailable for regionals, but his team coasted to a 17 point victory at a regional meet that proved to be one of the best in class 3A, with several strong teams and individuals. Those in action on the Trojans' course included 7 of the top 10 returners from last year's state meet, and three of this year's top four ranked teams.
Oh yeah, and only two teams get to move on.
Wichita Trinity was the odd man out among the top teams, losing out to Southeast of Saline and Smoky Valley at regionals. Among individuals, those moving on from that regional with aspirations of a top-five finish at state this week include Ryan Heline (Smoky Valley), Kodi Downes (Council Grove), Luke Gleason (Southeast of Saline) and CJ Meyer (Collegiate).
Jacob Hobson, a Trinity athlete who ran a great race and huge personal best in 17:25, will be forced to stay home after placing 11th. He would have advanced from any other class 3A region on Saturday.
Outside the Southeast of Saline regional, Cormick Logue of Girard was the fastest Kansas runner. He dismantled the Fredonia regional and coasted to a 16:13 victory, leading his team to state as well. Expect those Trojans to be in contention for a top-3 trophy. Logue, who won 4A state last season and has the state's fastest time of 15:17 this season, is the favorite to win the Class 3A title on Saturday.
Girard will also have the advantage of knowing the Wamego course, as many 3A teams are used to going to Rim Rock for state.
Scott Community is another team that will be clawing at the podium. The Beavers are the best in the west after taking down Lakin by 3 points. Lakin's 1-2 punch of Lawson Beymer and Edwin Garcia wasn't enough to overcome Scott's 35-second pack time.
This is the first year since 2010 that the class 3A championships will be held in Wamego. Girard is the only team that has competed here at state recently, but teams like Sabetha and Marysville has competed there during the regular season. Others, most notably the current Southeast of Saline squad, have never competed on the Wamego Country Club course, so that may play a factor in a year that has been as wacky as any.
Class 3A State Meet at a Glance
Saturday, Oct. 31 at Wamego Country Club
Boys Start: 12:00 PM
Girls Start: 12:35 PM
Defending Team Champions: Southeast of Saline (boys); Norton (girls)
2020 MileSplit Predictions
Boys Individual Champion: Cormick Logue, Girard
Girls Individual Champion: Lara Murdock, Colby
Boys Team Champion: Southeast of Saline
Girls Team Champion: Southeast of Saline