If you're heading to Wamego this Saturday, you are in for a
real treat when the Class 4A races take place. And that's no knock on the 1A
and 2A races, by any means.
It's just that the 4A division is crazy good. The boys and
girls races will be fast and tight and right down to the wire. Euphoria - and
Cailie Logue -- will reign.
Ah, yes, Cailie Logue. Boy, I hate to go too overboard on
this one, but the Girard senior is the No. 2 ranked runner in the Saucony Flo50 U.S. rankings. She's a humble, well-grounded girl, and the fastest 5K female
high school runner we've ever seen in Kansas.
She placed third at the Nike Nationals last year, and is on
a short list of contenders for this year's Nike championship in early December.
She also beat a stellar field at the Festival of Miles last June in St. Louis.
I'm no good at jinxes, so I feel like I am safe to say that
on Saturday, Logue will become just the fifth Kansas runner ever to win four
individual state titles, and the first one ever in Class 4A.
Her season best 16:45 time for 5K is nearly 90 seconds
better than anyone else in the division, plus she runs for the joy of the
sport. I don't see the pressure of this race or this moment getting to her.
Enjoy the ride. Enjoy watching one of the best ever high school athletes to run
in Kansas. And savor this special moment in Kansas cross country history.
That said, the joy will be widespread on Saturday. The 4A
girls field is dripping with talent, including 12 girls who ran under 20:00 at
regionals, and 27 who went sub-20:30.
Logue's potential successor to the crown is Clearwater freshman
Aimee Davis, who has posted a season-best of 18:22 for 5K this season. Davis
won the prestigious Oklahoma Jamboree earlier this season, and scored an
impressive win against Maize South's Sierra Mortensen at last week's El Dorado
Mortensen (18:41) is the only other Class 4A girl to dip under 19:00
this season, winning the Edmond (Okla.) Pre State Meet in late September. She
and Davis will stage their own thriller Saturday, while keeping Logue honest.
Other girls' contenders include Sydney Burton of Abilene (19:15
to win the Hays regional last week), Renee Trout of Independence (19:31, third
behind Davis and Mortensen at El Dorado), and Andrea Chestnut of Clay Center (who
ran a career-best 19:32 for second at the Hays regional).
The guys aren't going to be out-done by the girls in Class
4A this year. In fact, get this: there were 25 guys who ran better than 17:00
at regionals last week, nine who were better than 16:30, and one who ran 15:27
That would be Calvin Shannon of Smoky Valley, who scored a
43-second victory over another pretty good runner, Jack Thomas of Scott
Community (16:10), at the Hays regional. Earlier this year, Shannon clocked
15:44 to win the Halstead Invitational.
As good as Shannon's regional time was, it's not even the
best in the division this year. Dylan Brenneman of Spring Hill has the state's best 5K this
year, clocking 15:26 at the Missouri Southern Stampede in September.
The boys' field includes 2014 Class 3A champion Lakelin Conrad of Wichita Collegiate, who has consistently run between 16:00 - 16:30 this season. He placed
third in the Class 4A meet a year ago and beat Shannon and Brenneman to win the Blue Division of the Rim Rock Farm Classic in September.
Others who ran sub-16:30 at regionals last week include
Ulysses' Alex Barbosa (16:20), Chapman's Aaron Modrow (16:22), Hays' Ethan Shippy (16:25), Clay Center's Kaleb Rookstool (16:26) and Colby's Mark Faber (16:29). There are at least another half-dozen 4A runners who have routinely run under 17:00.
You're getting the idea, right? There will be a wave of
contenders tromping across the Wamego Country Club course, and you can bet that
the finishing stretch will be ripe with grit and determination during the boys'
The wealth of individual talent in Class 4A also makes the
team races exciting.
Maize South, which in recent years has been a very good 5A
cross country school, became instant 4A contenders when they were moved down a
classification in early October.
Smoky Valley seems to be the biggest threat to Maize South
in the boys' division. The Vikings dominated the Hays regional last weekend,
posting a team average of 16:46. Plus, they've got Shannon as their frontrunner.
But I also like boys' teams from Circle, Girard, Ulysses,
Pratt and the home team Wamego to challenge for the podium. These are teams who
have cut their teeth this season with a pack mentality, which often is the key
at the state meet.
Maize South is much more dominant in the girls division,
where the Lady Vikings have the front-running strength of Mortensen and a relentless
pack attack behind her. They beat a very good Andover Central team by 32 points
at the El Dorado regional last weekend, putting five runners in the top 10.
Clay Center and Hays - who tied for the team title in the
Hays regional (Clay Center won the tiebreaker) - will likely duke it out with
Andover Central for second place, but six others - Girard, Fort Scott, Circle,
Buhler, Basehor-Linwood and defending champion Baldwin - are really good teams
that have a shot at state hardware.