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Ellinwood girls seek first title
Eagle boys, St. John, Macksville also qualify
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The Ellinwood girls have been close to a state cross country championship. But the Eagles have been state runner-up four times while winning regionals seven straight years.
Ellinwood is top-ranked in Class 2A heading to the state cross country championship at 10 a.m. Saturday at Wamego County Club. The Eagles were runner-up last year to Shawnee Maranatha Academy, which does not bring back its top two runners. The Eagles return its top three runners from last year — eighth-place finisher Abbie Reichuber, 10th-place finisher Joanna Strecker and 15th-place finisher Maddie Hayes.
Ellinwood captured the Central Prairie League girls title. Reichuber placed eighth followed by Strecker (10th), Hayes (15th) and Cailey Carmen (20th). Sarah Hammeke beat Hayes at regionals, which was a promising sign. Anna Fisher and Courtney Cook will also compete at the state meet. Ellinwood placed first in every meet except Lawrence, where Andover Central and Tulsa Metro outpaced the Eagles.
“We’ve run the state course at Wamego this year, which is an advantage,” said Ellinwood coach Lyles Lashley. “I like our chances to place in the top couple teams. Our goal is to run well enough to win the big trophy. We’ve got all our girls healthy and ready to go. We’ve beaten every Class 3A team we’ve faced this season.”
Bennington and Elbing-Berean Academy also won regional titles. Bennington’s Halle Johnson placed third in Class 2A last year and her freshman sister Kya Johnson beat her at regionals. Erin Topham paced Berean, which placed four runners in the top 13.
“Most of the time at state, it comes down to how well your fifth finisher performs,” Lashley said. “Our fifth-place runner has been improving her times.
St. John’s boys won the Central Prairie League title and qualified its team in Class 2A. Triston Long placed sixth and Wrangler Walker 13th at regionals. Quincy Smith, Remington Walker, Mason Osborne, Luke Mercer and Alexis Valenzuela will compete. Maranatha won the Class 2A boys title last year.
Ellinwood’s boys also qualified for the fifth time in seven years behind sixth-placed finisher Avery Pike (18:36.59), who joins Jacob Kasselman (18:58.52), Peter Joslin (19:13.96), Jayce Christiansen (19:24.87), and Destin Baker (20:23.56) in the state meet.
Macksville’s girls also qualified in Class 2A, a step up from placing as Class 1A state runner-up last year. Leading runner Emma Stimatze finished 16th last year. Other state veterans returning are Gilda Lopez, Magi Penner and Bethany Esparza. Itzel Garcia has been a strong No. 2 runner. Mikeal Ann Loiland and Emely Corral Nevarez will also compete.
Individual qualifiers include St. John’s Shayla Garcia in Class 2A and Thomas Harmon and Carly Welsh of Otis-Bison in Class 1A. Olpe’s Kyler True is the defending Class 1A champion and third-place finisher Frank Cuevas of Kiowa County returns. St. Paul’s Jenny O’Bryan is the defending Class 1A girls champion. Tribune-Greeley County returns four runners from a state champion. The Jackrabbits have captured seven girls titles in the past nine years.
Larned’s Delainee Gordon is a four-time state qualifier in Class 3A at Lawrence’s Rim Rock Farms. She will be joined by Hoisington’s Rylie Koester, who beat Gordon at the Central Kansas League meet.