There is an established hierarchy in City League girls cross country.
Bishop Carroll's Kaelyn Balch, North's Amber Eichkorn and Kapaun Mount Carmel's Mackenzie Maki were seemingly predestined to be the top three finishers, in some order, for the league race on Oct. 16.
But the pecking order is being challenged. East senior Cate Dunn has composed a strong case for consideration, emphasized by her Rim Rock race, in which she ran in a time of 15 minutes, 52 seconds.
Because Dunn ran in the Gold division, she did not run in the same race as the Balch, Eichkorn and Maki, but East coach Michael Draut believes she is a serious contender to crack the top three.
"We feel that way, but you have to prove it on race day by going out and beating those girls," Draut said. "So far, she hasn't done that yet."
To be mentioned in the same conversation is an accomplishment in itself for Dunn, who entered the East program as a skinny freshman. Since then, she has built her core strength and has improved gradually in her career — something of a rarity with girls runners.
"When she first came in she wasn't very strong," Draut said. "As she's gotten older, she's also gotten stronger. She's worked really hard since the end of last cross country season and she's been dedicated."
A showdown is waiting several area runners at the El Dorado Invitational on Oct. 9, which will be a chance for Dunn to make her case against the best runners.
The next level — Many figured Mulvane senior Evan Landes to be the favorite to win the individual title in Class 4A. There was not much left he could do to surprise people after winning three races by comfortable margins before Rim Rock.
But Landes found a way to pull off a surprise by posting a time of 15:36, by far the best time in the state this season.
"He had a great day and ran a really smart race," Mulvane coach Dale Landes said. "He followed it all the way through, but I was even surprised a little bit about his time. The competition definitely helped him through it."
Landes found another gear while trying to keep up with Brian Gohlke, one of the top runners in Texas.
"Evan obviously has high goals that he sets for himself and has a lot of confidence, but I think this really helped him," Dale Landes said. "He's really focused on his goals and now he knows he can run not only with the best in the state, but also the best in the region."
Don't forget about me — A lot of attention is centered around next week's meet in El Dorado, but another competitive meet will be run this Saturday in the Newton Invitational. Varsity races begin at 11 a.m.
The meet has expanded to 12 teams, including middle-sized powers like Buhler and Wamego and Class 6A schools such as East and Goddard.