By RICK PETERSON
Washburn Rural junior Madeline Carter and Seaman junior Bethany Druse, who have posted back-to-back top-10 state finishes, headline the 2021 All-Shawnee County girls cross country team.
Carter finished seventh in the Class 6A state meet after winning city, Centennial League and Class 6A regional titles while Druse finished a city-best sixth in the 5A state meet. Carter finished eighth and Druse ninth at state in 2020.
Carter and Druse are three-time All-City/All-County picks along with Rural senior Khloi Bird, while Seaman senior Emma Schultz and Washburn Rural sophomore Sydney Laster are repeat selections. Bird placed 14th at state.
Washburn Rural's Payton Fink, who placed 19th in her first state meet, is one of five freshmen who earned All-Shawnee County recognition, along with teammate Rylee Ismert and Seaman's Stella Appelhanz, Anna Becker and Joslynn Grace.
Veteran Seaman coach Rick Brading was named the Shawnee County girls coach of the year after his Vikings captured a 5A regional team title and placed fourth in the 5A state meet.
All-county cross country capsules:
STELLA APPELHANZ, Seaman -- A freshman, Appelhanz steadily developed as a runner throughout the 2021 season and finished strong as the Lady Vikings No. 3 runner. Appelhanz placed seventh in the city meet, 13th in the Centennial League, fourth in a 5A Regional and 34th at 5A state. Her personal-best time was 19:52.
ANNA BECKER, Seaman -- Becker was a solid performer all season for the Lady Vikings throughout her freshman season. Becker placed 11th in the city meet, 12th in the Centennial League championships, sixth in 5A regional competition and 47th at 5A state. Becker's personal-best time was 20:13.
KHLOI BIRD, Washburn Rural -- Bird capped off her high school cross country career with an impressive senior season. Bird is a three-time All City/All-County selection, a two-time All-Centennial Leauge honoree and earned All-State honors this fall. Bird followed closely behind teammate Madeline Carter all season long, placing second in city, league and regional meets before finishing the season with a 14th-place finish at state. "Bird's leadership and dedication were an integral part of the Junior Blues’ success this season,'' Rural coach Matt Swedlund said..
MADELINE CARTER, Washburn Rural -- Carter turned in an outstanding junior season for Washburn Rural, earning five individual wins in her nine races this season and never placing lower than ninth place. Three out of her five first-place finishes came in a sweep of the city, Centennial League and 6A regional meets. Those accomplishments earned Carter her third All-City/All-County selection, her third all-league honor and second All-State honor. Carter led the Junior Blues’ girls team to city, league and regional team championship and a fourth-place finish at state.
BETHANY DRUSE, Seaman -- Druse, a junior, is a three-time All-City/All-County selection and a two-time All-Stater. Druse had a solid junior season, improving her best time by 20 seconds and establishing a new Seaman five-kilometer record of 18 minutes, 48 seconds. Druse place fifth at Rim Rock, fourth in the city meet, second in a 5A Regional and sixth in the 5A state championships, leading the Lady Vikes to a fourth-place team finish.
PAYTON FINK, Washburn Rural -- Fink trained with the cross country team all summer but it wasn’t until the final days of summer that she made her mind up to participate in cross country instead of trying out for the volleyball team. Fink had an incredible freshman season for the Junior Blues, finishing third behind teammates Carter and Bird in four straight races including city, league and regionals. Payton’s efforts earned her All-Shawnee County, all-league and All-State honors, finishing the year with a 19th-place state finish.
JOSLYNN GRACE, Seaman -- A freshman, Grace came on strong about midway through the 2021 season and became a difference-maker for the Lady Vikings. Grace placed fifth in the city meet, sixth in the Centennial League, third at regionals and 22nd individually in the 5A state meet. Grace's time of 19:30 in the 5A regional meet broke the Seaman freshman five-kilometer record.
RYLEE ISMERT, Washburn Rural -- A freshman, Ismert was an immediate contributor to the Junior Blues. Despite battling persistent health issues throughout the season, Ismert showed tremendous grit and resilience running tough and competing hard even when not feeling 100 percent. Ismert finished the season strong, scoring for the Junior Blues in their first-place regional finish and fourth-place state finish.
SYDNEY LASTER, Washburn Rural -- Laster had a solid sophomore season for the Junior Blues, earning All-City/All-County honors for the second time. An active member of the drumline in the Washburn Rural Marching Band, Laster balanced her running with her band responsibilities all season. A highlight of Laster’s season was her eighth-place finish in the city meet.
EMMA SCHULTZ, Seaman -- Schultz, a senior, is a two-time All-City/All-County selection and provided strong veteran leadership for a very young and talented Lady Vikings team according to Brading. Schultz placed sixth in the city meet, ninth in the Centennial League, fifth in 5A regional competition and 37th at state. Schultz's personal-best time was 19:50.
ALL-SHAWNEE COUNTY GIRLS XC
Name, school Class
Stella Appelhanz, Seaman Fr.
Anna Becker, Seaman Fr.
Khloi Bird, Washburn Rural Sr.
Madeline Carter, Washburn Rural Jr.
Bethany Druse, Seaman Jr.
Payton Fink, Washburn Rural Fr.
Joslynn Grace, Seaman Fr.
Rylee Ismert, Washburn Rural Fr.
Sydney Laster, Washburn Rural So.
Emma Schultz, Seaman Sr.
Cair Paravel: Katherine Keys, so.; Zahra Lewis, fr. Hayden: Elliot Wrench, fr. Rossville: Amelia Foster, jr. Seaman: Leah Spurlock, jr. Topeka West: Anna Phelps, sr. Washburn Rural: Christine Gutierrez, jr.; Brooklyn Nolte, fr.
Coach of the year -- Rick Brading, Seaman.