Northwest’s cross country teams have never qualified for the state meet in the same season.
Ron Russell has established the boys team as a yearly contender, but hasn’t been able to end the 17-year state drought of the girls team.
This might be the Grizzlies’ best hope, as Amy Wells has elevated herself in her senior season to compliment Maidelaine Keller and Kali Simkins for legitimate threats for medalists every race. Freshmen Emma Hickey gives Northwest essential depth.
“Amy has caught fire in her senior year and she’s running with a purpose right now,” Russell said. “We’re hoping that will bring along our other girls and make our whole team better.”
Russell also eyes an opportunity in the City League this season behind the overwhelming favorite and defending Class 5A champion Bishop Carroll.
Northwest will run this Saturday at the Rim Rock Invitational in Lawrence.
“I would love to be second in the City and that’s our goal,” Russell said. “I think we can do it if we do the right things and train the right way.”
Different approach — The Derby girls team has been a spot for elite runners in recent seasons. That trend may continue, but this season the Panthers are learning another way to compete without being able to rely on a top-five finish in big meets.
The Panthers still expect to be successful in Class 6A, but it will come through a pack mentality led by junior Kaittlin Cabrin. Derby also returns Madi Greenwood, Alyxis Bowens, Alexa Ammerson and Kathrine Doerksen and added an impact freshman, Grace Mitchell.
“Kaittlin has done a great job of being a leader for us so far,” Derby coach Eldon Edwards said. “She’s definitely wanting to be our top runner, but she’s getting challenged by Grace. I think that can be a healthy competition and I like the way our girls team is shaping up this season.”
Derby, which also has a competitive boys team led by senior Brandon Lewis, will run in the Crimson Division at Rim Rock on Saturday.
Looming showdown — Rim Rock has added significance this season, at least for the team competition in the City League.
It will be the first time the Carroll and North boys square off in a preview of what will likely decide the City League title. The Redskins are also keeping an eye on Manhattan, a strong contender for the 6A title.
“It’s going to be a big storyteller as far as where we are stacked up against Bishop Carroll and Manhattan,” North coach Michael Pope said.
Cory Swords, coach of the three-time defending state champions, said he was more excited about what his team and North can accomplish on the state course in Lawrence.
“I think we can show how the City League stacks up against the rest of the state,” Swords said. “Hopefully we can both push each other to some good performances. There’s going to be a lot of good competition there, so we’re just hoping that we can maybe add to it.”