Run it back.
For Salina Central's Katelyn Rupe, this year she didn't do it alone. After winning 5A by a minute in 2022, she brought along teammate Kaylie Shultz in 2023. Shultz doubled the fun for Salina Central, placing second just 22 seconds behind the defending champ. Ryin Miller of Seaman, one of the state's best in her own right, was another 38 seconds back in third. The race was fairly packed together behind those three, with Blue Valley Southwest's Isabella Ross, Great Bend's Addy Nicholson, St James' Katie Price, and Andover's Madelyn Wallace taking the next four spots, separated by just six seconds.
In the team standings, Saint James was deadlocked with Great Bend at Cemetery Hill, but the last kilometer belonged to Abby Loos, Leah Haeusser, and Allie Morfeld. The 5-6-7 for the Thunder finished as strong as any, making up ground and passing Great Bend's #5 and #4 to seal the win.
For Great Bend, it's heartbreaking to lose it at the end, but the Panthers have a lot to be proud of. Their senior class has qualified and finished in the top six all four years, capped off with their best finish this year.
For the boys, it was Blue Valley Southwest going back-to-back. After being the hunters a year ago, they were the hunted in this year's sequel. Spring Hill gave them a heck of a run, but it seemed like BV Southwest was just a step ahead of them, with their 1, 2, and 4 runners finishing 1 spot ahead of their Spring Hill counterparts. The final score was 52-65. Both teams finished a healthy distance ahead of the pack of private schools clamoring for the final podium spot, which was taken by Bishop Carroll.
Individually, Jackson Esquibel of Shawnee Heights handled the pressure well. He was the favorite on the starting line, but had more company than he was expecting during his morning run. Ultimately, he managed to hold off Carroll's Dustin Stephenson (2nd), Kapaun's Daniel Enriquez (3rd), and BV Southwest's Canyon Buehler (4th), who were all evenly spaced along the Jim Ryun Skyline by about 8 steps. Logan Beckman, Spring Hill's leader, rounded out the top-5.
It was quite the season for Esquibel, who was 8th a year ago. In a new-look 5A that returned just three of last year's top ten, he won 8 of 9 races, including City and League titles. He also improved his time over last year's state meet by 31 seconds.