One year ago, Bennington's girls toed the starting line of
the Class 2A state cross country championships with high hopes of winning the
school's fourth girls title.
What transpired over the next 20-25 minutes was not exactly
what the Bulldogs had envisioned.
Sure, freshman Kya Johnson was a nice surprise. She roared
through the Wamego Country Club course to a winning time of 19:36, just the
second Bennington girl ever to win the individual title.
But Bennington eventually fell to a strong Ellinwood team,
which captured the team title by a decisive margin of 45 points. In what should
have been a close team race, Bennington had an off-day, despite a second-place
They've got a second chance this year to make amends, this
time entering as a bit more of a clear favorite for the Class 2A girls title.
At last week's regionals, Bennington fought off Wabaunsee for the Washington
County regional title, in the process posting an average time of 21:12 for its
five runners - more than a minute better than any other Class 2A girls team
Bennington also has the front-end strength. Kya Johnson is
back, though her sister Halle Johnson, a junior, may have a slight edge for the
individual title. Halle Johnson was in much the same position a year ago, but
had an off-day and fell to 31st place, more than two minutes off her
Halle Johnson (pictured at right) clocked 19:15 for Class 2A's top time at
regionals, while Kya Johnson was the second best at 19:26. They look pretty
good for a 1-2 finish at state, but they'll have to fight off Stanton County's
Rebeca Avelar (second at state last year) and Wabaunsee's Madeline Hess (12th
at state last year).
Hess, in particular, has had a very good season. She was
third to the Johnson sisters at last week's regional, in a career-best time of
19:46. She's got upward momentum, and experience in racing against the
Bennington stars. She's probably not intimidated.
Lyndon's girls won the Burlington regional last week with an
impressive score of 21. Sophomore Maddie Montgomery, winner of the regional
meet in 20:39, will lead the upset-minded squad.
Kiowa County, Wabaunsee and the defending champs Ellinwood
will also be in the mix for a spot on the podium. The depth of each of those
teams makes a title run a bit tougher, but they are certainly capable.
The Class 2A boys individual race is loaded. Yates Center's
Hadley Splechter (pictured at right), eighth at state last year, jumped to the top of the list of
favorites when he won the Burlington regional in a time of 16:37 last week.
But he'll have to contend with Caleb Carrasco of Stanton
County (16:42 to win the Meade regional) and Frank Cuevas of Kiowa County
(16:43 for second at the Meade regional). Cuevas was third at this meet last
year, while Carrasco finished fourth.
All three of those runners clocked season bests at the
regional meet last week, so you gotta figure they're all in pretty good shape
and ready to roll. This is likely to be a really fun race to watch.
The boys' team title is up for grabs, since defending
champion Maranatha Academy failed to qualify for state this year.
I'll tab Kansas City Christian as the team to beat, largely
because they've got a frontrunner in Luke Rovenstine (winner of the Washington
County regional last week) and because they seem to have the best depth in the
field. Last week, they got all five to the finish line in 18:33 or better.
That's what probably will keep Yates Center from pulling off
that school's first-ever state team title. Though the Wildcats have three boys
with top 10 times in the division, they have a gap of over a minute to their
fourth runner. At the state meet, that's a lot of points added to your team
score. A top three finish, however, is not out of the question.
Bennington and Stanton County are the other two boys' teams
with a great chance to make the podium. Like Yates Center, they have front-end
strength in their lineup, but are struggling to get their fourth and fifth
runners to the finish line.