The best athletes are the type who focus on what they can control. Effort in practice? That's controllable. Race conditions? Not so much. Some athletes may never even get to see ideal race conditions. However, when those elite athletes happen to find that elusive perfect day on the right course, you might just see a little magic happen. That's what I saw unfold at the Flint Hills League on Thursday.
As the middle school races began to wrap up, you could already feel the anticipation in the air. The course had no notable hills, it was sixty-seven degrees, and the crisp fall air carried no wind. The only gripe anyone could make was the sun beating just a tad bit too hard. Just as the high school girls toed the line, though, the sun slipped behind the clouds, and like a solar eclipse the Orchard fell into an extended moment of perfection unlike any other I had experienced during my 10 years in cross country.
The girls took advantage of the moment, with West Franklin's Emma Bailey dipping below 20:00 for the first time at 19:51. She defeated former league record holder Jordyn Picolet, who finished 2nd in 20:46. Bailey's teammates also put together a record-setting performance, scoring 21 points with a top-5 average of 21:32, the best in West Franklin history.
In an equally flawless boys race, Council Grove sophomore Kodi Downes won his 6th race of the season in dominant fashion, setting a school, league, and course record of 15:59. Mission Valley's AJ Rubio was in second most of the race, but was caught late by West Franklin's Hunter Bailey and Kyle Haner. Rubio's famed kick was enough to retake the silver medal, though, in 16:51. At 16:55, Hunter Bailey is just 7 seconds off his brother's school record, and he's still just a freshman. The Falcons would sweep with a boys team title as well, and their 17:43 team average was another school record.
West Franklin celebrates their league championship
(Photo courtesy of West Franklin XC)
Elsewhere around the state, league champions were crowned on both Thursday and Saturday. At the AVCTL championships, Sawyer Schmidt posted a convincing victory over Tanner Lindahl. The Augusta senior has had a remarkable season, breaking the 16:00 mark four times, with this week being his all-time PR. His undefeated track season in the spring was somewhat a surprise, but this fall season has been just as good. You can bet he's ready for a rematch with Hayden's Tanner Newkirk (Centennial Champ) at state in two weeks. On the team side, Lindahl's Buhler boys got the win over Augusta. For the girls, Hayley Trotter's 19:09 was the best in the 26-team super league by a wide margin. Maize South's Britton Kelly was the 2nd best runner at 19:40, but the two were at different sites since Clearwater is in Division 3-4 and Maize South is in Division 1-2. While the database says otherwise, Derby's Girls were crowned AVCTL champs over Maize South.
Washburn's 1-2-3 finish on the girls side was enough to upend Manhattan and Seaman by two and five points, respectively. Madeline Carter's 18:43 for the win was her third gold medal in a row.
At the Sunflower League, possibly the upset of the year was unraveled as Shawnee Mission North superstar Micah Blomker was defeated by Shawnee Mission East junior Wyatt Haughton. Haughton is no slouch, with his slowest time of the year being 16:09. His 15:35 on Saturday was a PR, though, and enough to down the heavy favorite by 1 second. Olathe South breathed a sigh of relief after surviving a scare from Olathe East. The two tied with 92 points apiece, but Olathe East lacked a quality 6th man. For some reason, the Eagles only had 6 runners in the race, and had 5 JV runners record faster times than their last varsity runner. Had East stacked their top 7 on varsity, this could have been a different story. Instead, South remains the team to beat in 6A. Meanwhile, Shawnee Mission North finished a distant 7th, a rough day for the #2 team in 6A.
On the girls side, the Olathe West team and Olathe North's Anjali Hocker-Singh continued their season-long campaign as the best in Kansas.
Several leagues this season have been very tight, and the epic conclusion to those storylines has come to a close. Team races in nearly every league were close. Rivalries like Kapaun-Carroll were at their best, there were tiebreakers and 1-point wins left and right. Regardless of where you were this week, there was some high-quality entertainment going on.
Below are the rest of this week's league champions:
Kaw Valley: No Results Sent
United Kansas: No Results Sent
Team: Iola Boys & Prairie View Girls
Individual: No Results Sent
Three Rivers: No Results Sent
Cherokee-Neosho-Crawford: No Results Sent
Team: Caney Valley Boys & Fredonia Girls
Individual: Drew Wilhite (17:14) of Humboldt & Campbell O'Dell (20:07) of Fredonia
Heart of America
Heart of the Plains
South Central Border: No Results Sent
Team: Stanton County Boys & Southwestern Heights Girls
Individual: Cameron Golub (16:32) & Chesney Peterson (19:28) of Stanton County
Western Kansas Liberty: No Results Sent
North Central Kansas