(Photo by Brandon Ngo)
This was a relatively quiet week for Kansas XC. We're in the aftermath of the Wamego and Olathe Twilight meets, but not yet to the Rim Rock Classic. It gives us a chance to return to good, old fashioned early season meets. They may not be the 300-runner behemoths that are becoming more common, but they have their own level of charm. Typically, the course isn't as smooth, and while the times won't be as fast, it's worth the toughening up. The competition is more local, giving athletes a chance to get to know their league and area schools better. Overall, small meets are just plain good for the sport.
A great example of this was the St. John invitational. There were 5 boys teams and 7 girls teams scored, and the team battles were well-balanced. Andale won the girls race by a fair margin (probably because they were a 4A school at a 1A meet), but eight teams had a runner in the top-10, showing some remarkable balance of individuals around the area. Sterling's Faith Ekart had the top performance of the meet, clocking 20:08 to win by about a minute. For the boys, the top four teams were separated by just 10 points. Andale scored 56 to seal the win, but nobody knew for sure until the final scores were posted. Byron Johnson, a Senior out of Ellsworth, was the individual champion, breaking 17:00 for the first time in his career. Of the top-10 individuals, nine different schools were represented.
Over in Wellsville, there was a boys team battle between Flint Hills rivals Central Heights and West Franklin, with the Vikings winning 45-49. The Falcons would get the win on the girls side, though, toppling fellow 3A heavyweight Prairie View by a score of 53-80.
Bonner Springs held a small meet with a handful of Kansas City-Area schools on Saturday. Micah Blomker got back to his winning ways, covering the course in 16:13 and leading Shawnee Mission North to a decisive victory over Lansing. His teammate Brenna Murphey won the girls race in 20:15, but Christ Prep would take the girls team title with 37 points.
At a similar meet in Baldwin, Olathe West took care of business with a team win, while Free State's boys walked away with a solid win over Olathe East. Topeka West's Lenny Njoroge grabbed his second individual win of the season in 15:52, while Bree Newport was the girls' winner at 18:59.
At the Circle Invite, we saw Hayley Trotter break 19:00 for the first time in her excellent career. It was more than a minute before any others crossed the finish line. Maize South rolled in the team scores, beating Rose Hill 26-54. Augusta's boys packed well to win in similar fashion over Maize South's boys. Trotter's breakaway win wasn't the blowout of the week, though. That award goes to Piper's Grace Hanson, who won by 3 minutes and 22 seconds at DeSoto.
In Hugoton, Chesney Peterson ran away from a sneaky-tough field in 18:24. Meade's Madison Sutterfield, one of the top 1A girls, was second in 19:58. Stanton County was the girls team champs, while Holcomb pulled off a two-point victory over Liberal. MJ Foster was the individual winner for Liberal, finishing in 16:42, ahead of Stanton County's Kamryn Golub (2021 2A XC Champ) and Meade's Logan Keith (2022 1A 800 & 3200 Champ).
A handful of schools crossed state borders for bigger meets, but no teams made any serious noise. Individually, Hannah Gibson of Shawnee Mission South placed 3rd at the Heartland Classic, running 18:46 on a rainy Saturday in Iowa. St Thomas Aquinas senior Colby King had a successful trip as well, finishing 2nd in 15:37.
Next week, we'll see a few more small meets on Thursday, similar to this week, but they'll all be in the shadow of Saturday's Rim Rock Classic. With 3A/5A/6A state making its return to Lawrence this year, you can be sure to see plenty of teams getting a preview of the state course. You can expect to see teams & runners from several states, including a few coming down from the Colorado altitude. If you're looking to watch the meet, be sure to allow at least an hour for parking. Traffic can get pretty slow near Rim Rock Farm, since there is just one road into the property. Don't let that deter you from making the trip, though, as this is easily one of the best meets in Kansas every year!