Historic Weekend At Kansas State Championships Despite Odds

*Anjali Hocker Singh wins her fourth-straight 6A girl's state title

Photo: Maxx Bradley/MileSplit

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With Kansas historically having sporadic and unpredictable weather, it's no surprise that chill and sunny morning turned into a cold and rainy scene at Rim Rock Farm, with Wamego being dry, yet equally cold as well. Despite the conditions, runners made their way through the pair of grueling courses, ending the Kansas season on a high note.

In the state's largest classification, it was double-dose of 4-peat on the girl's side, as both Anjali Hocker Singh and the Olathe West girls won their fourth state title in a row. Becoming just the 7th girl in Kansas history to win all four cross country state titles, Hocker Singh pulled away from the field after the mile, winning by 42 seconds in 17:30.2. Washburn Rural's Payton Fink and Junction City's Lorna Rae Pierce finished second and third, crossing in 18:12.8 and 18:30.6. As they have all season, the Owls put up a stifling spread amongst their scoring runners, and even put all five of them in the top 20 spots. Led by seniors Kalyn Willingham, Bree Newport and Kate Miller , the queens of 6A won 45-68 over Olathe North, while Shawnee Mission East took 3rd with 113.

*Micah Blomker wins his second 6A cross country state title

Photo: Maxx Bradley/MileSplit

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Leading from wire-to-wire, it was 2021 state champion Micah Blomker of Shawnee Mission North who won gold again in his last time around, cruising to his sixth win of the year. Blomker crossed in 15:18.2, with 15 seconds between himself and the field. Blue Valley West's Brock Olsen and Gardner-Edgerton's Parker Walion taking 3rd, as the pair ran 15:33.2 and 15:36.0 respectively. In a year where a lot of teams could have won the 6A crown, it was the Trail Blazers of Gardner-Edgerton that took care of business, beating Olathe East and Shawnee Mission North 76-93-102.

*The St. James girl's team discuss their race and second straight 5A state title

Video: MileSplit

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When it comes down to it, Katelyn Rupe is her. The Salina Central junior capped off her second straight undefeated in-state season, and added her fifth state title to her collection, running 17:36.2 for a solo win. Her freshman teammate Kaylie Shultz was runner-up in 17:58.9, as the pair went 1-2 for the eight time this season. Seaman's Ryin Miller, a sophomore, was 3rd in 18:36.8.The team title stayed with St. James Academy for another year, as the Thunder put all seven runners ahead of runner-up Great Bend's fourth runner. St. Thomas Aquinas was 3rd, with the three squads posting a score of 68-78-103.

In much closer fashion than he would have liked, Shawnee Heights senior Jackson Esquibel won his first cross country state title in 15:34.5, as Bishop Carroll's Dustin Stephenson was runner-up in 15:39.9. Kapaun Mt. Carmel sophomore Daniel Enriquez was 3rd in 15:48.6. Posting a 1-5 spread of despite not having the 2022 3rd place finisher Thomas Caul all season, Blue Valley Southwest defended their title, winning 52-65 over Spring Hill . Bishop Carroll edged out Kapaun Mt. Carmel for 3rd, putting up 91 points. 

What better way to cap off your high school career than with your first individual state title, especially after finishing 2nd, 3rd, and 2nd in your last three years. Eudora legend Sydney Owens got the job done when it mattered most, leading the way in a Cardinal 1-2, as Owens and Hanna Keltner crossed in 18:47.9, and 18:59.6, two course PR's. Clay Center junior Lauren Smith was 3rd in 19:02.6. Along with the first two medals, Eudora won their third straight state title over other 4A power Baldwin 57-71, with Clay Center in 3rd with 81.

A field of experienced upperclassmen didn't faze McPherson sophomore Caleb Muehler, who charged past 2022 runner-up Zach Arnold down the homestretch, winning 15:58.4 to 15:59.7. That caps Muehler's season with ninth top-ten finish, dating back to August. Circle's Blake Logan was 3rd in 16:06.1. After a year-long wait, the Buhler Crusaders are back on top 4A, after a stifling 31-94 win over defending champs Wamego. How did Buhler do that you ask? All it took was putting all five scoring runners in the top 14 spots. Tonganoxie was 3rd with 113 points. 

Not a bad time for an upset of the defending champion! Trinity Academy sophomore Emily Hein ran away with her first state title, running 18:37.9 in the Rim Rock Farm finale. Despite the strong rain that began as the athletes toed the line, Hein kept her composure and held off Prairie View's Bree Allen, who was runner-up in 19:24.0 Cimarron's Janae Fugitt was a close 3rd in 19:27.8. For the fourth consecutive year, it was the Trojans of Southeast of Saline that hoisted the championship trophy, dominating both Trinity Academy and Norton Community 52-112-115. The final score was 49-73-98. With Breckyn Alderson leading the charge, the Trojan's 57-second pack time and four state medalists was more than enough to make it back-to-back-to-back-to-back. 

*Clay Shively and Sam Ferguson of Trinity Academy go 1-2 at the 3A state championship

Photo: Josh Hobson/MileSplit

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The last cross country race for Trinity Academy's historic senior class was a good one, as Clay Shively, Sam Ferguson and Jacob Hobson went 1-2-5, as the Knights completed the tri-fecta and won their third straight title. Shively and Ferguson ran the bulk of the race side-by-side, finishing in 15:48.0 and 15:48.1 as they coasted down to the finish. Holcomb's Brody Deniston was 3rd in 15:51.1, a new PR. Trinity Academy won the title over Southeast of Saline 49-73, with Deniston and Holcomb in 3rd. 

Losing just once her freshman year, Smith Center freshman Madison Howland picked up her eighth victory on the year, running a new PR of 18:38.4 along the way. Sophomore Avery Boydston (Ellis) and senior Emma Cubit (Central Heights) rounded out the top three, the pair running 19:16.1 and 19:26.2 respectively. The #3 ranking coming into the weekend didn't bother 2A champion Sacred Heart, as Knights brought home their first state title since 2004. They didn't leave anything up for chance, with both Remington and Sterling over 40 points back, with the final score being 85-106-125.

The Kansas City Christian senior Andrew Schumacher did it again, but this time on the grinding course in Wamego. Winning in 15:46, Schumacher jumped to fifth-fastest all-time on the course. Central Heights' Cody Hammond and Meade's Logan Keith finished 2nd and 3rd, clocking 16:04.3 and 16:16.4. After putting their top three runners in the top seven, the Vikings of Central Heights cruised to their fourth state title, with Trinity Catholic and Meade rounding out the podium, with a score of 67-80-90.

*Ellei McCrory wins the Rim Rock Blue Division earlier this season

Photo: Steve Bradley/MileSplit

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Capping off a perfect freshman campaign, Northern Height's freshman Ellei McCrory won her first state title in dominant fashion, running 18:30.7 with 51 seconds between herself and Attica's Cady Hemphill, who was runner-up in 19:21.8. Elyria Christian's Laney Reiff was right behind Hemphiill in 3rd, running 19:22.3. A pretty crazy statistic from the 1A girls race is that only two seniors finished in All-State positions, meaning there's a chance 18 medalists could potentially return to Wamego again next fall. The defending team champions South Gray went back-to-back, beating Ness City and Quinter 42-99-111. The Rebels packed all four of their scoring runners (only four are scored in 1A) in the top 20, going 6-8-9-19.

Lebo junior Caleb Durst won an extremely competitive race on the boy's side, running 16:29.9 to beat out Blake Yoder, the Central Christian senior and defending champion in 16:32.7. Ness City sophomore Broxton Gall was 3rd in 16:46.9.Just as they did a year ago, the Quinter Bulldogs won the team title, beating out Beloit-St. John and Ness City, 55-81-81, with the Bluejays's sixth runner beating out Ness City's by two spots for the tiebreaker.