The boys lead pack will likely include several runners from Wichita Trinity and Wichita Collegiate
(Photo by J Hobson)
Let me remind you of a phrase from our 3A Season preview: 3A never disappoints.
So far, that's rang true. Big season from Wichita Trinity? Yep. Dramatic finishes at regionals? Yep. Individual titles up for grabs? Absolutely.
To lead off, though, remember that 3A runs through Salina. Southeast of Saline remains a factor in the team races, and their girls eye a 3-peat. Southeast of Saline has traditionally relied on depth over front-running firepower. Granted, they had a pretty good front runner in Jentrie Alderson in previous years. Looking at this year's team, though, packing six at or below 22:30 is what makes them dangerous. Cheney and Wichita Trinity both have teams that could contend, but Cheney lost to SE Saline by 23 just a few weeks ago, and beat Trinity last weekend. That establishes a pretty clear pecking order heading into state. West Franklin may have added some challenge, but a heartbreaking scenario involving heat-related illness to their star senior left the Falcons at home this week.
Riley County could also contend for the podium after winning their home regional. These Falcons have come on strong towards the end of the season and brought the once-great program back to prominence.
Prairie View's Bree Allen was 2nd last year, and the favorite to win on Saturday
(Photo by Jessica Sprecker)
Individually, you could really look at the Council Grove regional and have a good idea of what the State standings will look like. Bree Allen of Prairie View is undefeated this season and the clear favorite. Her 19:49 at a hot and windy Council Grove was the top 3A time of the weekend. Emory Speece of Osage City, just a freshman this year, emerged as the runner-up at that meet. Halstead's Addisen Wills, who has the fastest 5K time from the regular season at 19:10, was 3rd. Another freshman, Trinity's Brecken Howell, has also gone faster than Allen this season at 19:33. Kingman's Mary Pearce & Erin Albright and Cheney's Abbye Hudson all defeated her at regionals, so they could be factors, too. Hannah Thong of Olathe Heritage was 3rd a year ago and won the regional at Riley County. Rose Buck's gutsy performance for 4th at Council Grove could put the Eureka freshman into the conversation as well. Lastly, Council Grove senior Jordyn Picolet has two top-10 finishes, so expect her to filter towards the front as well.
On the boys side, Wichita Trinity is everywhere. They sit atop the computer rankings for ALL CLASSES in Kansas, and are ranked somewhere in the 50-60 range in the nation. Pretty good for a little 3A school with less than 300 students. Depending on how their season finishes, they may go down as the best small-school team of all time. Their season bests average to 15:44, and several of them have improved on their times from the ridiculously fast ODAC course in September.
Clay Shively, Sam Ferguson, and Jacob Hobson could very well go 1-2-3. Cross-town rival Wichita Collegiate might have something to say about that, though, as brothers CJ and Will Meyer have broken up the Trinity pack several times this season.
At regionals over the weekend, though, the Knights averaged 17:45, and were without 3rd-runner Jacob Hobson. If this is an attempt at flying under the radar before state, I'm not buying it. They still scored 31 points and had a 31 second pack time. Southeast of Saline is the next best team, and is certainly a force to be reckoned with, just not when put up against the greatest 3A team ever assembled.
That leaves just one trophy on the table for the division's mere mortals. Hiawatha and Holcomb, the other two regional champions, could certainly make a run for it. The Redhawks knocked off a solid Marysville team over the weekend and the Longhorns took down Scott City. West Franklin, second to Southeast of Saline at regionals, may contend for the third-place spot as well. The Falcons have the best #2 runner of this group of teams in Kyle Haner.
Among individuals not attending Wichita private schools, Marysville's Silas Miller has the fastest time this year at 15:50. He has won 5 races this year, but lost to the Collegiate boys at Rim Rock, taking 3rd. He was 5th at state a year ago, behind CJ Meyer again. While Miller has had a tough time handling the Collegiate senior, there is one runner who hasn't.
Council Grove's Lakoddah Downes.
Kodi was 2nd as a freshman and 3rd as a sophomore. He has defeated CJ Meyer five times on the grass, and is one of the most dangerous competitors on the course. Standing at 6'1", 175lbs, Downes showed at regionals that he can shrug off heat and wind like no other. While other athletes were nearly a minute slower than usual, he was unfazed. Sometimes having a little muscle as a runner can be a good thing.
Lakoddah Downes uses his muscular frame to power into the wind at regionals
(Photo by Jessica Sprecker)
Now, the weather isn't expected to be 85 degrees and 35 mile-per-hour winds like it was at the Council Grove Lake last weekend. Instead, a calm, sunny 65 is expected. Rim Rock, however, does require a strength factor in its hills. Speaking of which, Wichita Trinity and Southeast of Saline have next to no experience with Rim Rock. SE Saline's Damion Jackson is the only runner on either roster who has competed on the course, and even he's done it just once. Course experience from Meyer, Miller, and Downes in could play a factor.
Or, maybe it won't. If Shively slips away early and has an overwhelming lead by the halfway point, no amount of hill experience will help the rest of these boys in the end. A microcosm of that played out at Wamego last year, where Downes spotted Shively a lead, and despite a ferocious kick, he came up 0.1 seconds short. Which scenario plays out this weekend? It's impossible to know, but one thing is for sure: It won't disappoint.