You can expect to see plenty of Aquinas runners at the finish line on Saturday as their boys and girls both contend for team titles. (Photo by Lathe Cobb)
Despite being the state's toughest division, parity is not a word in the 5A dictionary. St. Thomas Aquinas has 7 straight boys titles and are favorites for #8 on Saturday. Most years, there's a hero team that tries to break the streak. Last year it was Mill Valley, other times it's been Bishop Carroll. This year, it's Blue Valley Southwest. They've put up a heck of a fight, beating Aquinas early in the season, but the Saints came marching in at regionals, putting an end to BVSW's time as #1.
Aquinas has had 3 runners break 16:00 this month: Logan Seger (15:14), Ashton Higgerson (15:34), and Colby King (15:47). The only others to break that barrier in October are St. James senior Eli Moore (15:52), and the Shawnee Heights duo of Kory Sutton (15:41) and Jackson Esquibel (15:49). Mill Valley's AJ Vega could be in that mix as well, but he'll need to produce his best race of the season to stick with the pack.
COVERAGE: KSHSAA 5A/6A XC State Meet
Blue Valley Southwest is lacking a top individual, but their 51-second 1-5 split makes up for it. They can beat Aquinas at the #4 spot, and their #6 can push back Aquinas' #5. That's how they won back in September, and that's the recipe they'll have to put together to knock off Goliath. Mill Valley and De Soto had the pieces for a top-3 team, but both teams failed to advance from a loaded Lenexa region. St James took the 3rd place spot behind Aquinas and BVSW, and they'll be the odds-on favorite to snag the 3rd place trophy. Bishop Carroll, Lansing, and Maize won the other three regions, and any of them could come up with a big day at State.
For the girls, Aquinas reminded everyone at regionals why it's a bad thing to forget about them. Mill Valley was the clear favorite leading up to regionals, but the Saints swooped in for a 42-45 victory over the Jaguars. I still like Mill Valley's chances, though. Their 1-2 punch in Katie Schwartzkopf and Charloette Caldwell can really affect a point total in a big meet like State. They have a solid chance of combining for just 4 points on Saturday. Other teams in the mix will be Seaman, Great Bend, and Kapaun Mt Carmel (the other regional champs), along with Saint James.
Individually, Schwartzkopf and Caldwell will be joined by Piper's Grace Hanson. She dropped a personal best 18:11 at Topeka West last weekend and has been consistent all season. Seaman's Bethany Druse has also been good as of late, breaking 19:00 twice in the last 3 weeks. Aquinas senior Mareike Krebs will be in the fight as well. Hope Jackson is never one to count out, either. The two-time defending champion hasn't been as dominant this year, but the senior won't be going down without a fight.
5A will be held at 4-Mile Creek Resort in Augusta. The mostly flat course could produce some fast times, so things should be fun on Saturday!
Milesplit KS Predictions: Matt Goeckel
Boys Team: St Thomas Aquinas
Individual: Logan Seger, St Thomas Aquinas
Girls Team: Mill Valley
Individual: Katie Schwartzkopf, Mill Valley