Here are five storylines entering the Kansas high school cross country state meets later this week.
1. Can St. Thomas Aquinas girls repeat as Class 5A champions?
Not only are the Saints the reigning Kansas Class 5A girls cross country state champs, but the success of their distance program also helped deliver a girls track state championship last season. The cross country team lost two off last year’s squad, which recorded a perfect score of 15 at the state meet. One of the departures was overall champion Bailee Cofer. Still, the Saints have reloaded.
The Saints paced all five runners in the top 10 and won the Mill Valley regional meet last weekend, led by freshman Margaret Pigott in second place behind Judith Jones of St. James Academy.
2. Can anyone dethrone Lawrence Free State?
The Lawrence Free State girls team was led by a youth movement last season. It appears that trend could continue for a while.
Emily Venters won the individual title last year and picked up right where she left off this season. Venters, a sophomore, is not alone as a young leader. She won the Shawnee Mission Northwest regional meet and teammates Kiran Cordes, a sophomore, and junior Claire Sanner also finished in the top five.
SM West’s Amber Reed and SM Northwest’s Molly Born finished in the top five and SM West was just five points behind Free State in the team standings.
3. Will Stuart McNutt succeed in Class 5A?
Due to offseason reclassifications, Blue Valley West senior Stuart McNutt will not be able to defend his Class 6A state title. However, he appears to be in a pretty good position to follow it up with a Class 5A title.
Out of the four regional races that were run last Saturday, McNutt had the fastest time at 15 minutes, 53.20 seconds, which won the Mill Valley regional meet. He also had some help from teammate Connor Bost, who finished second to help the Jaguars qualify as a team.
4. Where will Blue Valley land in Class 6A?
Manhattan is the Class 6A defending state champion and looks primed to repeat, but the Blue Valley boys could bring some heat.
Joseph Gorthy won the Blue Valley regional meet with a time of 16:11.30 and teammates Joseph Wiederholt and Jacob Mikuls also placed in the top 10, which helped secure a team title.
Olathe North was eight points behind Blue Valley with fourth- and fifth-place finishes from Alexander Johnson and Josiah Heikes, respectively. Blue Valley North finished third, paced by Luke Embry (ninth) and Victor Gonzalez (10th).
5. Can Maranatha Christian repeat in Class 2A?
After winning Class 2A cross country and track state titles last season, it is no surprise that the Maranatha Christian girls are contending again.
Led by senior Lauren Harrell, Maranatha Christian captured the top four spots and won the Pleasanton regional meet. She was followed by Hope Manning, Taylor Morrow and Ashlyn Crews. Sara Elliott added an eighth-place finish.