Week 3 has become a quiet one in recent years. Small schools have always returned to their routine local invitationals after the big Wamego Invite, while the rise of Olathe Twilight has set the KC Metro on that same path. The allure of out-of-state meets this week, like the MSSU Stampede, has also faded post-pandemic. As a result, we have a couple dozen meets with some local schools to cover.
Kicking things off in the Western half of the state, Hugoton brought in teams from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado to town for one of the more deep and competitive fields of the weekend. Janae Fugitt from Cimarron emerged victorious in the girls race, while Liberal overpowered Gruver (TX), Scott City, and South Gray in a relatively competitive team battle. For the boys, it was Holcomb's rising star, Brody Deniston, who led all runners through the course. He notched a 19-second victory over Lakin's Alex Luce and led the Longhorns to a 6-point victory over Liberal. Meade, a 2A school that's been under the radar to start the season, had a strong showing in 4th place.
In Hays, the results were essentially filtered to a triangular between Garden City, Hays, and Dodge City, along with a dual between Norton and La Crosse. Dual/Tri meets don't look like much in the results, but can be a lot of fun and bring a different feel to raceday that we don't see as often. Norton handled the small-school dual, while Hays' girls and Garden City's boys took care of business in the tri.
Washburn Rural hosted the Shufleberger Top City Classic, which produced the nail-biter of the week on the boys side between Olathe West and Mill Valley. The Jaguars had the better 1 & 2 runners, but Olathe West's #5, Trenton Rogers, was the difference-maker for the Owls. He finished 5 spots ahead of the Mill Valley #5 to snatch the team title 67-68. West also won the girls title (duh) with Washburn Rural's Payton Fink coming out with an unexpected victory over a loaded field that included Junction City's Lorna Rae Pierce and Seaman's Ryin Miller.
In WaKeeney at the Trego Community Meet, another under-the-radar team showed up: Oakley's girls. The Lady Plainsmen took down Quinter 43-49, with Hays-TMP close behind at 52. Ellis standout Avery Boydston annihilated the individual field by 57 seconds. Wallace County's Evan Pearce did the same on the boys side, winning by 40 seconds. In the team standings, it was Hoxie over Quinter again, this week with a closer margin of 26-34.
At the St. John invitational, it was Sterling's girls that topped the field, defeating Ness City by 18. Senior Faith Ekart and Freshman Katie Inwood went 1-2. Their top runner from last year (and the 2A 200/400 champ), Julia Kilgore, placed 12th. If they can get all 3 at their best on the same day, this team could find themselves on the 2A podium. Broxton Gall and the Ness City boys handled business over the 10-team field with 64 points.
Up North in Hiawatha, it was Eva Cortes and Holton with the big victory in the girls race. John Langill from Nemaha Central edged out Royal Valley's Dominick Schnider by 2 seconds to win the boys race, while Jordan Hodge (3rd place) led and his hometown Hiawatha Redhawks to the team victory.
At Clay Center, the Tiger girls won handily over Smoky Valley, led by Lauren Smith in 1st place. Smoky Valley Homeschool, fresh off a win in Wamego's 123A division, took down Wamego themselves in the boys race 58-68. Chapman's Drew Elliott and Dereck Klukas went 1-2 individually.
The girls race at Buhler may have been the most unique of the weekend. The Salina Central duo of Katelyn Rupe and Kaylie Schultz were way out in front, with Rupe running away from her teammate by 45 seconds. Nobody crossed the finish line for the next two-and-a-half minutes, then the entire Great Bend team rolled through within 11 seconds. Needless to say, the Panthers crushed Southeast of Saline and the rest of the field.
Baldwin hosted their first invitational of the season on Saturday, where Micah Blomker went head-to-head with Jackson Esquibel, and came out on top by 18 seconds. In the girls' race, Brittney Betancourt of Shawnee Mission North, a new name for many, won a fairly competitive race. Team-wise, Baldwin handled the girls race, while we got our first good look at Free State's boys in their 11-point victory over Shawnee Mission North.
Lastly, the MSSU Stampede was mentioned at the beginning, and a handful of Kansas teams did make the trip to Joplin to compete this year. Olathe East had the best showing, with their girls taking 5th and their boys 3rd. Diego Barron took 8th individually. Manhattan's teams were both 10th, but Lucas Holdren claimed a top-10 spot individually at 6th. The boys race was insightful because (a) it showed where Lucas Holdren stands among stiffer competition, and (b) it tells us that Olathe East is still trending upward.