It is about Cross Country time, which is my favorite time of the year (no offense to track). I have been a huge fan of Cross and distance running for the last six years. Here are some things I am looking forward to this year in the two big classes:
- Just how good can Bishop Carroll be as a boys team? It returns four all-state runners plus another one that finished 27th. Three of those five returners were only freshmen last year. It is not going to be a question of if Carroll can win, but by how much. The Golden Eagles replace Mulvane as the best cross country team in the state this year.
- Who wins the 5A title individually on the boys side? David Thor of Carroll stepped up and showed what he is capable of on the track. Chris Wise has been a good runner for Hutchinson. Can James Hampton of Carroll step up and win a title as a sophomore? All answers I am interested in finding out.
- For the girls, Mackenzie Maki of Kapaun is the favorite and will continue to be until I see her lose at the state XC meet. The only girls that will push her that have been around are Kaelyn Balch of Bishop Carroll and Morgan Wedekind of Valley Center. Wedekind will only race them at the state meet if Valley moves up to 5A.
- The 6A boys are up for grabs, but watch the usual suspects of Lawrence and Shawnee Mission Northwest. It has been a while since that SMNW dynasty has made its full presence known. - Seven of the top 10 boys from last year, including the top six, graduated. That means dominance is up for grabs in the individual race as well.
- The 6A girls team race will likely be a Northeast Kansas show once again, but the individual title will be interesting as six of the top ten return including Megan Ballinger of Goddard and the Derby duo of Emily Hornbeck and Amber Green.
- There are several meets I am looking forward too as well
o Carroll Invitational on Sept. 3 – Maki, Balch, Green, Ballinger, and darkhorse Amber Eichkorn of North will all be there for the girls.
o Greg Wilson Classic on Sept. 3 – Big early meet for those NE Kansas schools with Aquinas SM East, SM NW, Free State and others will be there.
o Emporia Invitational on Sept. 11 – Might as well call it NE Kansas vs. Central Kansas. There is a great mix of teams here.
o Wichita Southeast Invite on Sept. 18 – The best team and runners in the City will be established here with Washburn Rural coming back down to compete.
o Rim Rock on Sept. 25 – Any team that is a good team will be here. Bottom line the best team in Kansas will be decided this weekend.
o Newton Invitational on Oct. 2 – Great mix of big and small teams from near and far
o El Dorado Invite on Oct. 9 – Last chance for local teams to make a statement heading into the big three
There are some quick hits of what I am looking for out of the big classes this year. I will get to the smaller classes over the next couple days. What do you guys think? What big class teams and individuals are you looking at this year? Did I miss somebody? Would you like something more in-depth for a preview or is this quick one cover it well enough? If enough people want something more in-depth I will put something together.