Preparation for the Kansas high school cross country state meet did not start weeks — or even a few months — before the season.
It’s year-round running, and two-time champion Stuart McNutt of Blue Valley West knows this better than anyone.
That’s why he made his way out last summer to Keystone, Colo., to train in the thin air at 9,000 feet. He felt that would be the place where he could set up his body for the fall high school cross country season.
McNutt, a Tulsa commit, finished the 5K state course with a time 15 minutes, 24.50 seconds, nearly 20 seconds faster than any other runner in the field at the 5A boys race at Rim Rock Farm.
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“I’m in great shape right now and I’m setting myself up well for the Nike and Foot Locker events later in the year,” he said.
Other impressive area finishers included St. Thomas Aquinas’ Emily Downey, who won her first Class 5A individual state title with a time of 15:06.20. But that wasn’t the only success for Downey. She and her six Aquinas teammates won their second consecutive team title, as well.
“It’s vital to have a front-runner, or just leaders,” Aquinas coach Justin Wrigley said. “The girls have that with Emily.”
Freshman Margaret Pigott of Aquinas ended up in second place in 15:07.70.
“I just tried to stay at the top with her and push my teammates a little harder,” Pigott said. “It helps so much, because everyone is so supportive and has a positive attitude.”
St. James finished in second place in the 5A girls division.
The Aquinas boys team also won their first team title since 2008.
“We’ve always had a core group of guys, but this year we had a deep enough group now that is loving this lifestyle,” Wrigley said.
Blue Valley West finished in second place in the 5A boys competition.
In 6A, the titles were won by the Blue Valley boys and Olathe East girls.
For the Hawks, it was about consistency throughout their program. Olathe East has won five titles since 2006.
“The kids all stepped up together,” Olathe East coach Tony Bozarth said. “They really all pulled together and ran as a team.”
The SM West girls ended up in third place in Class 6A.
For the Blue Valley boys, it marked the first cross country team title in school history and first under Diana Huber, who’s in her 12th year as head coach.
“We’ve been working hard throughout this entire summer and this season,” said Blue Valley’s Joseph Gorthy, who placed third in 6A. “Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win state, and we did that.”
In other meets, Spring Hill sophomore Dylan Brenneman represented the Broncos in Class 4A with a fourth-place finish in the state meet. He was the lone qualifier for the Broncos.
Propelled by four top-five finishes, the Maranatha Christian girls cross country team defended its Class 2A state title. Lauren Harrell was the individual state champion. She and teammates Hope Manning, Ashlyn Crews and Taylor Morrow helped capture the team title with 32 points. The Maranatha Christian boys also won a state title and were led by CJ Shiner, who finished ninth.
| Kathleen Gier of The Star contributed to this report.