All Alone -- Chapman's Taylor Briggs completed her run to history, winning her fourth Kansas class 4A girls state championship on Saturday. (Kansas MileSplit photo by Alexander Walters)
In 2017, Taylor Briggs won the girls' individual XC title in 4A.
In 2018, Taylor Briggs won the girls' individual XC title in 4A.
In 2019, Taylor Briggs won the girls' individual XC title in 4A.
In 2020... well, you get the point...
Briggs captured her fourth state title in as many years at Wamego on Saturday. It was clear early on that she was on a mission, and she dismantled the field in 18:18, nearly two minutes ahead of second place.
The talented and hard-working Chapman athlete has made history as only the sixth Kansas runner to capture four state cross country titles. While it most certainly is big news, Briggs' dominance of this division since 2017 made Saturday's result a foregone conclusion.
She completes her high school cross country career with a record of 28-2, the only two blemishes being top 10 finishes at the Rim Rock Classic against runners from seven states. She also is 57-8 in all high school races, including track and field, and is a perfect 8-for-8 in state meet competition (cross country and track and field combined).
She joins a list of former Kansas four-time champions that includes Dodie Martin of Stanton County (1995-1998); Amy Mortimer of Riley County (1995-1998); Trisa Nicoley of Shawnee Heights (2000-2003); Laura Roxberg of Blue Valley Northwest (2004-2007); and Cailie Logue of Girard (2013-2016).
There has never been a four-time state champion among Kansas boys.
In Saturday's class 4A girls race, the best of the rest was Eudora freshman Sydney Owens. She separated herself as the No. 2 runner early in the second mile, and held on for a strong finish in 20:09. She also claimed the first team point for Eudora.
Smith was the leader of a star-studded cast for Baldwin. Jana Landreth (ninth), Ambrynn Stewart (12th), Bailey Smith (16th), and Lauren Russell (17th) each earned All-State honors, and Baldwin reclaimed the 4A crown with 39 points.
Part of Baldwin's success has been their competition. The Frontier League has several elite teams, as evidenced by their sweep of the 4A girls team trophies. Eudora was a solid second and Louisburg took third.
Louisburg was led by Reese Johnson in 15th
place. The Wildcats faded a little late in the race after looking strong
through three runners early on, but held on to edge out defending champions Buhler
for a spot on the podium.
The individual battle for 4A boys was supposed to be a rematch between Hayden's Tanner Newkirk and Buhler's Tanner Lindahl, the top returners from last year's meet who had run the best times in the division this season.
However, Tonganoxie's Eli Gilmore wasn't going to wait around for them to play their tactical games. He opened a good-sized 15-meter lead on the field during the first mile, and hit the mile marker in 5:02. Gilmore's lead withered away over the next half mile, though, and he was caught by Newkirk, Lindahl, Micah Blomker from Bishop Miege and Sawyer Schmidt of Augusta.
Newkirk, Lindahl, and Blomker would break away before the two-mile mark, and Newkirk pushed the pace even further during the final mile to pull ahead. His small lead proved to be enough. Newkirk captured his first state title in 15:53, just ahead of Blomker in 15:56 and Lindahl in 15:59.
All three will be back next year. Newkirk and Lindahl are juniors, while Blomker turned a lot of heads in this, his freshman year.
For Lindahl -- the state champ in 2018 -- it was the second straight year that he placed third in a back-and-forth race for the title.
Gilmore was able to hold on for fourth in 16:38. His
strategy proved to work pretty well; he entered state with the division's 11th best time.
In fifth place (16:42) was a tough Winfield runner in Craig Labrue, leading a solid performance from the Vikings. Teammates Camilo Tarin and Corban Priest were eighth and ninth, respectively, packing the best 1-2-3 punch of anyone in 4A. This was good enough for a third place team finish, outscoring the host Wamego by 13.
Winfield was not far from the top, either. Just six points separated the top three teams. Bishop Miege was solid through four runners, but Buhler had big performances from Wyatt Bunce (26th), Colton Lohrentz (31st), and Brayden Dressman (43rd) to pack their fifth through seventh runners ahead of Miege's final scorer.
It proved to be the difference in Buhler's 4-point win, scoring 75 -- proving that in cross country, the sixth and seventh runners do matter.