By Taylor Eldridge
As part of the (week)daily series profiling this area’s cross country runners and coaches, Friday’s (TGIF) will be dedicated to rankings. Now, these rankings are nothing near to being official rankings. I just thought this would be a cool idea that might create some debate. So these are just based off my thoughts and early season times and previous seasons.
Also, there is no way for me to keep up-to-date on every cross country team in the state. So these rankings will only include the area’s teams. They’re pretty much common sense, so let me know if you have any questions/rants about who/why someone was left off.
Click the jump to see the inaugural (unofficial) rankings for the 2009 cross country season. Remember, this includes all classes. So who did I miss? Who did I leave out? Did I get anything right? Let me know.
Top 10 Teams
1. Bishop Carroll
Top 5 (season best time): Kaelyn Balch (14:37); McCaulley Christian (16:25); Anastasiya Menestrina (16:26); Natalie Englert (16:29); Brandy Tholstrup (16:33); Kristen Sponsel (16:33).Results: 1st at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 1st at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Carroll was just middle of the pack last year. Add Balch into the equation and another year of experience with a talented freshman class and the Golden Eagles are a Class 5A favorite to win the team title. No team really has gotten close to them early in the season, so I don’t see them falling any time soon.
Top 5: Emily Hornbeck (15:09); Amber Green (15:52); Valerie Nielson (16:55); Brenna Kleman (16:57); Breah Waldron (17:16).Results: 2nd at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 3rd at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/A
Justification: Derby is the returning state champions of 6A, and even with the loss of its top runner, figures to be in the mix again this year. Hornbeck is the lead runner the team needs, Green is the perfect second runner adn the team has a good supporting cast in Nielson, Kleman and Waldron. Only BC has looked more impressive early this season than the Panthers. I expect both of them to battle for No. 1 throughout the season.
Top 5 runners: Mallorie Coffman (15:53); Erin Loeffler (16:11); Shannon Ahlstedt (16:54); Laci McCartney (17:21); Ardys Woodward (17:59).Results: 2nd at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: I was kind of surprised myself by the Railroaders’ performance at the Swather Special yesterday. They beat Derby and Kapaun, which surprised me. I had a difficult time putting them ahead of KMC, but Newton has a better-rounded top four. The fifth runner’s time has a bit of a gap, but Newton is pretty solid 1-2-3-4.
4. Kapaun Mount Carmel
Top 5 runners: Mackenzie Maki (14:44); Marie Schaller (16:46); Katie Hand (17:05); Emilee Strecker (17:50); Megan Crawford (18:01).Results: 4th at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 4th at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Maki is the big point-getter for this team. There’s not really a strong second runner, but Schaller and Hand are solid runners. The Crusaders need to improve their No. 4 and 5 runners’ times as the season progress to compete as a team.
Top 5 runners: Dani Walker (15:38); Najai Hill (16:41); Mary Kranick (16:42); Kelsy McNay (17:16); Jordan Goss (18:24).Results: 3rd at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Dani Walker is one of the best in the area and is the anchor for this team. Maize is one of the best teams in the top four, but the lack of a good fifth runner time is holding it back.
Top 5 runners: Megan Ballinger (15:18); Julie Randall (15:20); Sarah Irsik (15:48); Courtney Maddux (15:48); Tiana Hacker (18:08).Results: 5th at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 1st at Hutchinson Invitational on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Most of the season best times are way lower than most of the times the runners put up in the first meet at Lake Afton. But I like the Lions’ potential now with Randall back. Irsik and Ballinger are solid young runners and Maddux and Randall have good senior experience. The team is still looking for a fifth runner, but is one of the better teams in this area.
Top 5 runners: Laura Combs (16:36); Aubrey Smading (17:14); Cate Dunn (17:39); Lauren Graber (17:40); Abby Amstutz (17:43).Results: 2nd at J.K. Gold Classic on 9/5Last ranking: N/AJustification: The team has a good lead runner in Combs then has a solid pack behind her. Combs isn’t a top-end No. 1 runner, but a solid one. The pack behind her will be solid and East will be a good team this season.
Top 5 runners: Shelby Nelson (17:07); Ellyn Willse (17:29); Katie Winter (17:56); Toni Androski (18:24); Carly Berblinger (18:33).Results: 1st at Great Bend Invitational on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Buhler is going to be one the better girls teams in the 4A class. Nelson and Willse will be up there in most of the races, then the pack behind them is pretty solid.
Top 5 runners: Michelle Babb (17:15); Tracy Rausch (17:52); Logan Davis (17:55); Kristen Babb (17:56); Cheyenne Layton (18:12).Results: Participation at Clearwater Invitational on 9/3.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Michelle Babb is the team’s top runner and a good one at that. This team has the No. 1 runner established and then has a great pack of runners finishing 2-5. That’s a good thing for the team and should continue to improve.
Top 5 runners: Alyssa Myers (17:12); Ashea Hanna (17:45); Breann Bowels (17:46); Guro Olaussen (18:16); Molly Crouch (19:00).Results: 6th at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Heights is pretty young and inexperienced this season, but they do have some talent. There isn’t a definite No. 1 runner on the team, but they have a pretty good top three.
Top 10 runners
1a. Mackenzie Maki, Kapaun Mount Carmel
Results: 14:49 (2nd) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 14:44 (1st) at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Though she lost to Balch head-to-head week one and by time splits week two, it’s hard to pick against the defending state champion. After next week, the top spot should be decided.
1b. Kaelyn Balch, Bishop Carroll
Results: 14:39 (1st) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 14:37 (1st) at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Based off the season’s first two meets, she is the No. 1 runner right now. If she clips Maki again next Saturday, then the top spot will be hers.
3. Molly Milbourn, El Dorado
Results: 15:18 (1st) at J.K. Gold Classic on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: There wasn’t much competition for Milbourn in week one, nor will there be much of the season for her running in 4A. It would be very interesting to see her run with Balch and Maki sometime. Even Walker to decide this third spot.
4. Dani Walker, Maize
Results: 15:38 (3rd) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Walker was disappointed in her first time of the season and I think she will be really motivated running tomorrow. Look for her to put up a good time.
5. Emily Hornbeck, Derby
Results: 15:58 (4th) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 15:09 (1st) at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: She’s only a sophomore and continues to improve week-to-week. She put up a really nice time at Hesston, almost breaking 15 minutes. Another solid week like that and she might move up.
6. Amber Green, Derby
Results: 15:58 (5th) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 15:52 (2nd) at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Green is only a sophomore and sometimes gets overshadowed by her classmate Hornbeck, but she is a solid runner in herself.
7. Amber Eichkorn, North
Results: 16:24 (6th) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: She is one of the more underrated runners in the City League. She runs for North, so she is sort of over-looked, but she is as solid as they come.
8. Megan Ballinger, Goddard
Results: 16:38 (8th) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 15:18 (2nd) at Hutchinson Invitational on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Ballinger got off to a slow start last season too, then finished strong in her freshman season. This year appears to be the same way. She’ll start off a little low, but expect Ballinger to finish this season strong.
9. Brooke Vining, Valley Center
Results:13:08 (1st, 2-mile) at Clearwater Invitational on 9/3.Last ranking: N/AJustification: It will be interesting to see what time she puts up in a 4k. She finished strong last season and it’s hard to gauge where she is at right now, but should stay in the top-10.
10. Sarah Wright, Douglass
Results: 16:37 (1st) at Clearwater Invitational on 9/3; 15:58 (1st) at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: I was surprised to see her name up there so early in the season of her freshman year, but there is no denying Wright’s talent. She should progress as the season goes along and improve each week.
Top 10 Teams
Top 5 runners: Nikki Trooien-Smith (16:20); Evan Landes (16:25); Wyatt James (16:49); Josh Hansen (17:00); Nick Lockwood (17:23).Results: 1st at J.K. Gold Classic on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: How can you pick against them? I think they’d compete at the 6A level for sure with that top 5. Lockwood will get his time down under 17 minutes and having five runners under 17 is almost impossible to beat.
2. Bishop Carroll
Top 5 runners: Cliff Kissling (16:52); David Thor (17:19); Andy Schepis (17:26); James Hampton (17:29); Gage Garcia (17:32).Results: 1st at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 1st at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Talk about a great freshman class. Carroll has six freshmen that can run in the top 7. The Eagles don’t have necessarily a standout runner (Kissling is close), but have so much depth it will be tough to knock them off.
Top 5 runners: Bryant Keirns (16:31); Brock Nooney (17:04); Jeremy Shear (17:15); Cooper Clark (17:15); Chris Kelly (17:37).Results: 2nd at J.K. Gold Classic on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Campus has proved it is reloading, not rebuilding. Keirns has stepped up his game and taken over the number one runner spot. With the emergence of Shear and Clark, Campus is right back in the mix as one of the top teams in the area.
Top 5 runners: Adam Porter (15:55); Morgan Peterson (17:14); Nikolous Rempe (17:27); Caleb Porter (17:30); Skyler Janda (19:08).Results: 4th at J.K. Gold Classic on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: The Bullpups would be ranked much higher, if not for that fifth runner time. McPherson is as solid as they come in the top three, but the fourth and fifth runners have work to do.
Top 5 runners: Robbie Martinez-Garcia (16:54); Daniel Herbert (17:26); Andrew Johnson (18:08); Kevin Crafton (18:56); Michael McCormick (18:59).Results: 3rd at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Northwest has two of the top two in the league in Robbie and Daniel, but the No. 4 and 5 runners are questionable. I think Northwest finds them and solves the problem.
Top 5 runners: Aaron Heil (17:04); Will Marsh (17:30); Jesse Parker (17:37); David Perales (18:00); Jacob Seamster-Davis (18:36).Results: 5th at J.K. Gold Classic on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: East is another one of those teams that is going to fly under the radar. Heil is sort of a top runner, but doesn’t standout. But the rest of the team will because of its depth.
Top 5 runners: Ryan Hopkins (17:45); Landon Kilgore (18:00); Daniel Van Sickle (18:02); Eli Ybarra (18:23); Richard Nance (19:11).Results: 2nd at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Maize has a complete team, except a 5th runner. There is too wide of a margin right now for the team to compete, but if they can find one then it should crack the top five.
Top 5 runners: Neil Metler (16:34); Darren Dawdy (18:13); Brandon Lewis (18:14); Vontez Curry-Long (18:17); Eric Hornbeck (18:23).Results: 4th at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 3rd at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Metler is going to be one of the area’s top runners in the area, but he just doesn’t have a second or third runner behind him to compete with the best. Derby has a good pack behind him, and if they can get some of their times under 18 minutes then it should start to rise.
9. Kapaun Mount Carmel
Top 5 runners: Tim Wescott (18:03); Cody Saunders (18:18); Matt Ayres (18:36); Anthony Baldessari (18:40); Lukas Maki (18:49).Results: 5th at Bishop Carroll on 9/5; 4th at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Truly a team without a top runner, Kapaun might fly under the radar because of it. The Crusaders have five runners that will be right around 18-18:45 minutes.
10. Berean Academy
Top 5 runners: Josiah Busenitz (17:33); Arlan Newby (17:48); Daniel Claassen (18:20); Michael Claassen (18:35); Steven Busenitz (18:58).Results: Participation at Clearwater Invitational on 9/3; 1st at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Felt like giving some love to the little guys with this pick. It’s not a pity pick though, this team is for real. It should be in the mix for a team title at state this season and if they can keep putting up solid times, there’s no reason for them not to be on here.
Top 10 Runners
1. Adam Porter, McPherson
Results: 15:55 (1st) at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: It looks like Porter is on a rampage this season. It is going to be hard to knock him off the top spot if he keeps breaking 16 minutes.
2. Nikki Trooien-Smith, Mulvane
Results: 16:20 (2nd) at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: The top runner on the top team. He goes a little bit under-rated as a top runner, but you look at his times and it’s hard to say otherwise.
3. Neil Metler, Derby
Results: 16:47 (1st) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5; 16:34 (1st) at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Metler is stepping out of his former teammate’s Jake Wike’s shadow. He’s won the first two meets of the year and it’s hard to pick against him until someone beats him.
4. Evan Landes, Mulvane
Results: 16:25 (3rd) at J.K. Gold Classic on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Mulvane runners are usually just classified as Mulvane runners, not individuals. But Landes is one of the top ones on the team and is just the definition of consistent.
5. Robbie Martinez-Garcia, Northwest
Results: 16:54 (2nd) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: He didn’t have enough in the tank to finish out the win in his first race, but expect Martinez-Garcia to improve this weekend in Emporia. He has the potential to rise.
6. Bryant Keirns, Campus
Results: 16:31 (4th) at J.K. Gold Classic on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Leading the resurgence at Campus is Keirns, who has stepped up his game as a sophomore. He’s the top runner on the team and should keep improving throughout the season.
7. Cameron Sprague, Hutchinson
Results: 16:28 (3rd) at Great Bend Invitational on 9/5; 17:04 (2nd) at Hutchinson Invitational on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Sprague has been in two pretty competitive races so far this season. He is looking to continue off his strong finish to last season and should be one of the more surprising picks to possibly crack the top five.
8. Cliff Kissling, Bishop Carroll
Results: 16:52 (3rd) at Swather Special on 9/10.Last ranking: N/AJustification: He missed the first meet of the year due to a leg injury, but he came back fairly strong at Hesston. He’s the top runner for Carroll and should keep lowering that time as the leg heals up.
9. Wyatt James, Mulvane
Results: 16:49 (6th) at J.K. Gold Classic on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: Another Mulvane runner on here, surprise, surprise. He’s the third runner on the team and is one of the best in the area. Would be a number one runner in most other places, but he’ll settle for No. 9 to start off.
10. Skylar Gutierrez, Southeast
Results: 17:17 (3rd) at Bishop Carroll Invitational on 9/5.Last ranking: N/AJustification: It was a good race to open the year with for Gutierrez. The time looks a little slow, but the course was running long and Gutierrez should be one of the tops in the City League this year.