By RICK PETERSON
Four-time Class 4A state medalist Tanner Newirk of Hayden headlines the 2021 All-Shawnee County boys cross country team.
The Wildcat senior, a former state champion, posted top-three state finishes his final three seasons after a 12th-place showing as a freshman.
Newkirk swept city, Centennial League and 4A regional individual titles this fall.
Newkirk, a four-time All-City/All-County pick, is one of four state placers on the All-Shawnee County boys team, with Shawnee Heights sophomore Jackson Esquibel finishing 13th in 5A, T-Bird junior Kory Sutton 20th in 5A and senior Alexander Holmes 13th in 6A.
Also earning first-team All-Shawnee County honors were state qualifiers Spencer Haddock, a senior, and sophomore Hayden Keller of Washburn Rural, senior Jace Moore of Seaman, senior Louis Wilson of Topeka West, junior Andrew Emerson of Shawnee Heights and sophomore Aiden Amis of Hayden.
Washburn Rural coach Matt Swedlund was named the All-Shawnee County boys coach of the year after his Junior Blues repeated as the city team champion and earned a state team berth in 6A, finishing eighth.
All-county cross country capsules:
AIDEN AMIS, Hayden -- Aiden had a breakout season for the Wildcats as a sophomore, clocking a five-kilometer time of 17 minutes, 10 seconds. Amis was Hayden's second runner for the majority of the season behind Wildcat senior Tanner Newkirk. Amis earned individual medals in four meets on the year. Three of those medals came in championship meets -- city, Centennial League and Class 4A regionals.
ANDREW EMERSON, Shawnee Heights -- A junior, Emerson didn't compete in 2020 due to COVID-19 and then underwent a planned heart procedure that interrupted summer training. Emerson came back working as hard as ever, which led him to four personal records on the year and improving his time by 67 seconds and helping the T-Birds finish seventh in the 5A state meet. Emerson placed 12th in the United Kansas Conference and 11th at regionals.
JACKSON ESQUIBEL, Shawnee Heights -- Esquibel had a very good sophomore season, setting a personal-best of 15:49. Esquibel placed second or better in five of seven meets, including second-place finishes in the United Kansas Conference and regional meets and earned a Class 5A state medal with a 13th-place finish as Shawnee Heights finished seventh as a team. "Jackson supports his teammates both in training and competition,'' T-Bird coach John Oshel said.
SPENCER HADDOCK, Wasnburn Rural -- Haddock ran on the Junior Blues' varsity squad the past three years, earning his first All-Shawnee County honor this fall. Haddock made steady progress throughout his high school career and solidified his spot as a leader for Washburn Rural early in the 2021 season. Haddock finished seventh in the city meet and ran his best race of the season in the 6A state meet, setting a personal best of 16:52.
ALEXANDER HOLMES, Washburn Rural -- After spending the summer not being able to run and having hip surgery, getting any season was a bit of a miracle for Holmes. The surgery itself turned out to be less severe than expected and his recovery time was cut in half. "A relentlessly tough individual, Alex was bound and determined to make everything he could out of his senior cross country season,'' Rural's Swedlund said. "Despite his limited training, Alex made it clear his first race back that he would be leading the Junior Blues as their No. 1 one runner.'' Alex earned All-City, All-League and All-State honors, finishing 13th at state.
HAYDEN KELLER, Washburn Rural -- After being a surprise contributor for the Junior Blues last season, expectations were much higher for Keller in 2021. He did not disappoint, running consistently well for Rural week in and week out. Keller led the Junior Blues in their season-opener at Manhattan before settling in as the No. 2/No. 3 runner the remainder of the year. Keller ran well through the championship races posting top 10 finishes in city, Centennial League and regional. Hayden’s fastest performance of the year came at the city meet where he posted a personal-best 16:48.
JACE MOORE, Seaman -- Moore continued his steady development this season, improving his best time by nearly a minute over his previous seasons. Moore led the Vikings in each race his senior year, highlighted by a regional fourth-place finish in a time of 16:21. Jace placed fifth in the city championships, ninth in the Centennial League (good for second-team all-league), 45th at state and a medal-winning performance at the Rim Rock Invitational. More was an All-City selection last season.
TANNER NEWKIRK, Hayden -- Newkirk had a great senior season to cap off an outstanding high school cross country career. Newkirk won five races this fall, including the city, Centennial League and Class 4A regional meets. Newkirk's season-best time happened to be his career best time at regionals with a five-kilometer time of 15:16. Newkirk finished third at the state meet, earning his fourth state medal with his third top-three finish. Newkirk was the state runner-up as a sophomore and the state champ as a junior.
KORY SUTTON, Shawnee Heights -- Sutton continued to improve his time throughout his junior year, breaking a 30-year-old school record with a time of 15:41. Sutton finished up a great season by earning a 5A state medal with a 20th-place finsh and helping the T-Birds finish seventh as a team. Sutton won United Kansas Conference and 5A regional titles. "Kory has been a great teammate, always positive and supportive with team goals in mind,'' Heights' Oshel said.
LOUIS WILSON, Topeka West -- "Louis was our boys team captain and top runner all season,'' West coach Donnie Palmer said. Wilson, a senior, clocked a best time of 16:57 at the 5A regional meet, where he finished eighth and qualified for the 5A state meet. Wilson finished ninth in the city meet and was 20th in the Centennial League meet.
ALL-SHAWNEE COUNTY BOYS XC
Name, school Class
Aiden Amis, Hayden So.
Andrew Emerson, Shawnee Heights Jr.
Jackson Esquibel, Shawnee Heights So.
Spencer Haddock, Washburn Rural Sr.
Alexander Holmes, Washburn Rural Sr.
Hayden Keller, Washburn Rural So.
Jace Moore, Seaman Sr.
Tanner Newkirk, Hayden Sr.
Kory Sutton, Shawnee Heights Jr.
Louis Wilson, Topeka West Sr.
Hayden: Ryan Rochford, sr. Seaman: Anson Appelhanz, sr.; Landon Stuke, jr. Silver Lake: Cameron TenEyck, sr. Topeka High: Michael Christopher, jr. Washburn Rural: Davin Johnson, jr.
Coach of the year -- Matt Swedlund, Washburn Rural.