If you wanted to see an up-close preview of this week's
Class 3A state cross country championships, you should have been in Sterling
Right now, it looks as if the division's top boys and girls teams
laced 'em up at the Sterling regional last Saturday, and this week is simply
Round Two of what turned into some very exciting matchups.
That includes a monster rematch this Saturday at Rim Rock Farm
between the boys' teams from Hugoton and Halstead. On Saturday, Hugoton pulled
out a two-point win over the two-time defending state champs, winning two key
finish line battles in the process.
But Halstead in the role of the hungry lion...uh, well, that's
kind of scary considering that the Dragons are well-versed in the pressure of
the state meet, and they have returned everyone from last year's winning squad.
Halstead's Steven Cline is the defending individual state
champion, and he put up a season- and career-best 16:26 to win the Sterling
regional. Hugoton, a 4A school last year, then brought the fight as Abraham Garcia (16:29), Miguel Martinez (16:38) and Ethan Fox (16:59) finished second
Despite the two-point loss, Halstead did put six runners in
front of Hugoton's fifth runner, and therein lies the key this week. With more
runners at the front end of the pack, that could turn the tables at the state
meet. For that reason, I lean toward saying that Halstead will finish up the
three-peat this Saturday in Lawrence.
Last year's state runner-up Riley County and third place finisher
Council Grove both won their regional meets handily last week. They don't need
to settle for third place, though, because both teams can put together a tight
pack that could steal the win away from the pre-meet favorites.
Luke Oatney of Pleasant Ridge and William Bailey of West Franklin
are two others with a decent shot at the individual title this year.
In the girls division, Hugoton beat Norton by 26 points at
the Sterling regional, and those two teams appear on paper to have the
upperhand on the rest of the field. Hugoton's team average at regionals was
20:54 while Norton posted an average of 21:30 for its top five.
On an even course, though, Hiawatha (21:59) and Beloit
(21:52) could knock off the two pre-meet favorites. Hiawatha edged Beloit by three
points in the Riley County regional. Halstead's girls have an outside shot at
the podium, too.
Hiawatha can certainly feed off the role of hungry lion.
They were the state runner-up last year, and certainly showed they've got some
grit in fending off Beloit last week. Can they muster the fight to improve one
more spot this year?
You can expect a pretty intense battle for the girls'
individual title this week. Senior Celia Biel of Hutchinson Trinity and
freshman Hannah Burks of Beloit have the best times coming in, both running 19:09
to win their regional meet.
They will get a tussle from Lexi Kats of Norton (19:20, second
behind Biel last week) and Elizabeth Kettler of Hiawatha (19:30, second to
Burks). Abby Heger and Kathryn Heger, who ran 19:55 and 20:10 last week, lead