By RICK PETERSON
Washburn Rural's girls have put together a banner 2021 cross country season, and an even more impressive October.
On Saturday at the 4 Mile Creek Resort in Augusta, the Junior Blues will be aiming to end the year with a bang in the Class 6A state meet.
Rural's girls have been on a roll, including a sweep of city, Centennial League and regional team titles and four straight 1-2-3 individual finishes from junior Madeline Carter, senior Khloi Bird and freshman Payton Fink.
But Rural faces an even bigger challege on Saturday in the 12 p.m. 6A girls race, but coach Matt Swedlund believes his Junior Blues are up to the task and can challege for a top-three team finish.
"Olathe West is a very good team,'' Swedlund said. "On paper it is hard to find a way to beat them. Of course, the race isn't run on paper; we always approach races knowing everyone is beatable. Olathe North, Blue Valley Northwest and Manhattan are all good teams. We believe we will be competitive with these schools in the battle for a podium spot.
"There are several very good teams in 6A and we are one of them. Our girls have had a lot of success over the past five weeks but the competition at the state meet is obviously “next level.” We are prepared and ready to run our best race. I believe if we do that, we’ll give ourselves a great chance to be on the podium.''
Carter also ranks as a top contender individually after putting together a string of individual wins this fall and earning an eighth- place finish in the 2020 state meet.
"Madeline has really been running strong this season, which is giving her a ton of confidence going into the state meet,'' Swedlund said. "She is going to go out and put herself and her team in the best possible position to be successful.''
Washburn Rural also qualified as a team for the 10:40 a.m. 6A boys race, finishing third in last week's 6A regional meet at Milford State Park as senior Alex Holmes finished third individually and sophomore John Hayden Keller sixth to pace the Junior Bljues.
Topeka High junior Michael Christopher earned a state berth as an individual with a 21st-place finish.
NEWKIRK LOOKING TO REPEAT IN 4A
Hayden senior star Tanner Newkirk will be looking for a fouth straight state medal and a second straight title in Saturday's 11:20 a.m. 4A boys race at Wamego Country Club.
Newkirk is coming off a dominating win in last week's 4A regional meet at the Kanza Park Course, winning by 54 seconds in a five-kilometer time of 15 minutes, 16.67 seconds to lead Hayden to a second-place team finish and a state team berth.
"I think I'm in my best shape of the season and the work has obviously paid off,'' Newkirk said after his regional win. "(Saturday) I felt really good and I was able to come out here and do really well.''
Now Newkirk will be looking for another big day in his final state meet.
"I'm really excited, I'm ecstatic,'' he said. "I'm looking to maybe set the course record and just run a really fast last cross country race.''
Sophomore Aiden Amis added an eighth-place individual finish for the Wildcats at regionals while senior Ryan Rochford narrowly missed a top-10 finish, taking 12th.
Hayden also qualified its girls team for state with a third-place regional finish, led by freshman Elliot Wrench's runner-up individual finish.
The Wildcats also got a 10th-place finish from sophomore Elaina Wolff.
The 4A girls race is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.
Hayden is one of the most successful cross country programs in 4A history, with the Wildcat girls winning seven state team titles and the Hayden boys winning five state championships. Hayden's boys also won a 3A title.
SEAMAN GIRLS, T-BIRD DUO CHASING TOP 5A FINISHES
Coming off strong regional performances last week at the Kanza Park course, Seaman's girls team and Shawnee Heights boys standouts Kory Sutton and Jackson Esquibel lead the city contingent into Saturday's state meet at 4 Mile Creek Resort.
Rick Brading's Seaman girls have been strong all season and are coming off a perfect team score at regionals en route to a 15-77 win over Leavenworth.
Junior Bethany Druse, ninth at state as a sophomore, led the way for the Vikings with a runner-up individual finish while freshmen Joslynn Grace and Stella Appelhanz finished third and fourth followed by senior Emma Schultz in fifth and freshman Anna Becker in sixth to round ouf Seaman's top five.
Now the Vikings will be shooting for a top-three finish at state.
"We think we've got a shot at a trophy,'' Brading said. "That's where we feel like we're at. I think you've got Mill Valley and Aquinas and St. James and us and St. James are very similar. It will be exciting.''
Shawnee Heights' Sutton, a junior, and Esquibel, a sophomore, appear to be strong contenders for high state finishes in the boys race after going 1-2 at regionals to lead the T-Birds to a second-place team finish.
Heights also got an 11th-place finish from junior Andrew Emerson.
Seaman's boys earned the final team berth for state with a third-place finish.
Senior standout Jace Moore led the Vikings, finishing fourth individually, while Seaman used a pack finish of 13-14-15-16 to earn its team berth.
Topeka West had a pair of individual state qualifiers, with senior Anna Phelps placing 10th in the girls race while senior Louis Wilson finished eighth in the boys race.
The 5A girls race is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, with the boys race set for 11:20 a.m.
LIONS SENDING BOYS, GIRLS TEAMS TO 1A STATE
Cair Paravel Latin will be represented by both its boys and girls teams in Saturday's 1A state meet at the Sand Plum Nature Trail in Victoria.
The Lion boys qualified for state with a third-place regional finish at Centrailia, just six points out of first, while Cair Paravel's girls also finished third at regionals.
Junior Jonah Eckert and senior Blake Reynolds placed 10th and 11th for the Cair Paravel boys at regionals while senior Zach Clark finished 16th.
Freshman Zahra Lewis finished 10th to lead the Cair Paravel girls while sophomore Katherine Keys placed 14th and senior Jaley Barkley 19th.
The 1A boys race is set for a 10:40 a.m. start, with the girls to follow at noon.
FOSTER, TENEYCK EARN 3A STATE BERTHS
Rossville junior Amelia Foster and Silver Lake senior Cameron TenEyck earned individual state berths for Saturday's 3A state meet at Wamego Country Club out of the highly-competitive Sabetha regional.
TenEyck, who placed sixth at state a year ago, posted a third-place individual finist at regionals while Foster punched her ticket to the state meet with an eighth-place finish regional finish.
The 3A boys is scheduled for 10:40 a.m. Saturday, with the girls race to follow at noon.
SHAWNEE COUNTY STATE XC QUALIFIERS
Topeka High -- Boys: Michael Christopher, jr.
Washburn Rural -- Girls: Khloi Bird, sr.; Madeline Carter, jr.;Payton Fink, fr.; Christine Gutierrez, jr.; Rylee Ismert, fr.; Sydney Laster, so.; Brooklyn Nolte, fr. Boys: Easton Dial, jr.; Grayson Fink, jr.; Spencer Haddock, sr.; Alex Holmes, sr.; Davin Johnson, jr.; John Hayden Keller, so.; Ishaan Patel, sr.
Seaman -- Girls: Stella Appelhanz, fr.; Anna Becker, fr.; Bethany Druse, jr.; Joslynn Grace, fr.; Brooke Polter, so.; Emma Schultz, sr.; Leah Spurlock, so. Boys: Anson Appelhanz, sr.; Ryan Buckley, sr.; Zach Jowers, jr.; Jace Moore, sr.; Alexander Newell, fr.; Landon Stuke, jr.; Adrian Swaim, so.
Shawnee Heights -- Boys: Stephen Carter, fr.; Mason Deitcher, so.; Andrew Emerson, jr.; Jackson Esquibel, so.; Alex Lehmann, sr.; Landon Staniec, so.; Kory Sutton, jr.
Topeka West -- Girls: Anna Phelps, sr. Boys: Louis Wilson, sr.
Hayden -- Girls: Catherine Doyle, jr.; Hayden Haas, jr.; Ryann Newkirk, fr.; Riley Schmidtlein, sr.; Elaina Wolff, so.; Elliot Wrench, fr. Boys: Aiden Amis, so.; Nick Lloyd, jr.; Zach Moore, so.; Jake Muller, jr.; Tanner Newkirk, sr.; Nick Padilla, sr.; Ryan Rochford, sr.
Rossville -- Girls: Amelia Foster, jr.
Silver Lake -- Boys: Cameron TenEyck, sr.
Cair Paravel Latin -- Girls: Jaley Barkley, sr.; Amelia Bowling, so.; Katherine Keys, so.; Zahra Lewis, fr.; Cecilia Richards, fr. Boys: Jacob Bowling, sr.; Zach Clark, sr.; Jonah Eckert, jr.; James Keys, sr.; Bryson Leon, fr.; Blake Reynolds, sr.; Nathan Walker, sr.