2023 KSHSAA State Cross Country - 4A Recap

Two years ago, Eudora toppled Baldwin for the first time. It was the culmination of years of program-building to match the gold standard of 4A girls running. Last year, they did it again, but as a heavier favorite with an older, more experienced team.

In their third act, Eudora has done it again with a third straight title over their Frontier League rival Baldwin. This year, the Bulldogs were back in the position of the favorite heading into the postseason, but an upset at regionals put it all into question. The Bulldogs were down a runner last week, leading to the Cardinal upset. However, back with their normal top seven, this year's favorite just suffered a plain, old fashioned upset.

Now in reversed roles they were a few years ago, Eudora has become a dynasty in 4A. Several factors fueled their victory on Saturday, starting with huge performances from their top-3. Sydney Owens and Hanna Keltner are distance running royalty at this point, going 1-2. For Owens, it was a long time coming, finishing 2nd, 3rd, and 2nd. After battling the likes of Taylor Briggs as a freshman, Hayley Trotter for three years, and even her own teammate Hanna Keltner, it was finally her time to shine as a senior. In just her second race under 19:00, she did it on one of the toughest courses out there. The experienced senior made her move with roughly 1000m to go, after all the major hills were behind her. Needless to say, she finished her career off with her best race.

Keltner was no slouch, either. She took the lead in the early portions, and held off Clay Center's Lauren Smith for second place, also dipping under 19:00. Irelyn Kennedy of Baldwin was the fourth runner of the lead pack, which broke away late in the first mile. Baldwin also countered with Shea Griffith, who returned to form after not scoring last week. She emerged as the leader of the next pack, placing 5th.

Coming up big for Eudora, though, was sophomore Addison Williams. The Cardinals have needed a #3 to step up after Phoebe Fletcher graduated last spring. There's no better time than the state meet to pull it off, and Williams did just that, placing 13th.

At the end of the day, it was a 57-71 victory for Eudora. Clay Center was just another 10 points back in third, with Kylie Pfizenmaier joining Lauren Smith in the top-10.

For the boys, this year's edition of the 4A championships got spread out early. In the first race of the day, McPherson's Caleb Muehler and Eudora's Zach Arnold spread things out early and there wasn't much movement or jockeying for position among the top twenty or so runners. Muhler and Arnold duked it out for the full 5000 meters. Over every hill, around every turn, they were deadlocked. No separation. Of course, it came down to a final kick, where Caleb Muehler had just enough to take home gold. In the process, both runners snuck under 16:00.

Blake Logan (Circle) and Drew Elliott (Chapman) were next across the line, followed by an onslaught of Buhler Crusaders. Layne Whisler (5th), Kaden Lohrentz (6th), Gavin Lindahl (7th), Henry Trumpp (11th), and Kai Mendenhall (14th) all grabbed medals as they destroyed the field with 31 points. Wamego, the champions a year ago, claimed second place with 94 behind senior Harrison Cutting. Tonganoxie packed enough runners in the 20s and 30s to take 3rd with 113.

For Buhler, they have now won five of the last six championships in 4A. The Crusaders have been a machine of epic proportions in recent years, but with 4 seniors graduating, they'll have to reload if they want to hold off a young Wamego team that will return two freshmen and three sophomores.