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Boys cross country: The top runners and teams for 2017 season

Collegiate senior Lakelin Conrad won the Class 4A boys cross country title and championships in the track and field 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
Collegiate senior Lakelin Conrad won the Class 4A boys cross country title and championships in the track and field 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Associated Press

BOYS TOP 10 RUNNERS

1. Lakelin Conrad, Collegiate senior

2016 state finish: 16:14, Class 4A champion

Outlook: Conrad is back for his senior year looking for his third championship to finish out an illustrious career. After missing out on the title his sophomore year, Conrad came back with a vengeance last year and won the 4A title by 19 seconds. With his top six challengers from last season all gone, Conrad is the heavy favorite to repeat his title if Collegiate remains in 4A.

2. Matthew Harding, Carroll junior

2016 state finish: 16:37, 10th in Class 5A

Outlook: Harding had a breakout sophomore season, winning the City League title en route to a Top-10 finish at the 5A meet. Coach Cory Swords has been impressed with the work Harding has done over the summer, which should set him up for an even bigger junior year as Carroll’s No. 1 runner.

3. Owen Pearce, Kingman junior

2016 state finish: 16:40, Class 3A champion

Outlook: Pearce took his running game to another level last season as a sophomore, winning the cross country title in 3A in the fall and then the 3200-meter title in the spring. Pearce has had another solid summer and appears poised to repeat his title after winning by 15 seconds a year ago.

4. Nate Jones, Maize senior

2016 state finish: 16:48, 15th in Class 5A

Outlook: Jones is back again as Maize’s top runner after nearing breaking 16 minutes in a 5-kilometer last season. He’s coming off a solid finish at the state meet, but coach Skeeter Rankins thinks he could be in store for an even better finish this year if he can remain healthy.

5. Jonathan Jones, Derby senior

2016 state finish: 16:53, 13th in Class 6A

Outlook: Jones has been a silent and steady force in the area’s running scene in his first three years. He’ll look to wrap up what has been a stellar career with another medal in the 6A meet, as well as battle Maize’s Nate Jones and Newton’s Garrett Mick for the league crown.

6. Cale Carson, El Dorado senior

2016 state finish: Did not qualify

Outlook: The junior cross country season did not end the way Carson wanted it to, but he’s coming off a stellar track season in the spring and appears poised for a big cross country senior year. Carson has one of the best kicks on this list and could surprise some people after an injury kept him out of the regional meet last year and prevented him from running at the state meet.

7. Asher Moen, Andover junior

2016 state finish: 16:58, 18th in Class 5A

Outlook: If he needs any guidance on how to be a top runner, all Asher Moen will have to do his ask his older brother, Alex, who was Andover’s No. 1 runner for the last three years. While Asher Moen has never handled the role of being the top runner before, all signs point toward a breakout season for him during his junior campaign.

8. Bryce Merriman, Maize South senior

2016 state finish: 17:28, 12th in Class 4A

Outlook: If Maize South is going to defend its state championship, then Merriman must rise to the occasion and be this team’s top runner. That job had been held by Ethan Kossover, who is now graduated, but Merriman appears more than capable of filling the role and helping the Mavericks back to another great state finish.

9. Garrett Mick, Newton senior

2016 state finish: 16:56, 16th in Class 5A

Outlook: Mick has been a steady force for Newton for years and now he appears ready to ascend into one of Class 5A’s best. His father, coach Richard Mick, is optimistic that another summer of training could make Garrett one of the top runners in the area this season.

10. Emmet Keller, Circle sophomore

2016 state finish: 17:29, 13th in Class 4A

Outlook: Circle coach Gary Wartick believes the Thunderbirds are in for a big season and it begins up top with the team’s top runners returning in Keller and senior Avery Stuever. Wartick says the duo has logged more miles this summer than ever before and look like they will give Circle one of the best 1-2 punches in Class 4A for its chase for a title this season.

Others to watch: Ashton Dodson, Douglass senior; Wayne Hesse, Carroll senior; Alex Mora, Hutchinson senior; Matthew Maki, Andover Central senior; Avery Stuever, Circle senior.

BOYS TOP 5 TEAMS

1. Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles

2016 state finish: Fifth in Class 5A

Top runners: Matt Harding, jr.; Wayne Hesse, sr.; Auggie Iseman, jr.; Jason irwin, sr.; Adam Birch, jr.; Jack Pate, jr.

Outlook: Carroll suffered through an injury-plagued season in 2016, as it dropped out of the team trophies at the state meet and finished fifth as a team in Class 5A. Expect a bounceback season this year, as Harding, the City League champion as a sophomore, returns to head what should be a potent lineup. Hesse is fully healthy and Iseman, Irwin, and Birch give Carroll a strong scoring five.

2. Maize South Mavericks

2016 state finish: Champions in Class 4A

Top runners: Bryce Merriman, sr.; Hayden Schmidt, sr.; Dane Wedge, sr.; Britte Magnuson, jr.; Luke Jennings, jr.; Trey Rios, so.; Jayce Meyer, so.; Jackson Wedge, so.; Elijah Clark, fr.

Outlook: Maize South is coming off a state championship run, but must replace its top runner and its coach. Long-time North caoch Michael Pope has moved over to Maize South and the Mavericks return their other six runners from the state lineup. Maize South will once again be strong at the top and its depth should make it one of the top teams in the area this season.

3. Andover Trojans

2016 state finish: Third in Class 5A

Top runners: Asher Moen, jr.; Connor O’Connell, sr.; Ryan Kinnane, so.; Will Vetter, so.; Josh Jackson, jr.; Sam McDavitt, fr.

Outlook: Andover had its finest season to date under coach Justin Hill, as the Trojans ascended all the way to a third-place finish at the 5A meet last October. Gone is leader Alex Moen, but his younger brother, Asher, is ready to take over. The Trojans return five from their state lineup a year ago and should once again be one of the top teams in 5A.

4. Circle Thunderbirds

2016 state finish: Third in Class 4A

Top runners: Emmet Keller, so.; Avery Stuever, sr.; Ryan Derry, so.; Eli Jacobs, so.; Brycen Schoenhofer, so.; Simeon Keller, fr.; Corbin Tandy, so.

Outlook: Coach Gary Wartick is extremely high on what he has returning after the Thunderbirds finished third as a team last year in Class 4A. Circle returns five of its seven runners from the state meeting, including its top two in all-state runners Emmet Keller and Stuever. Circle will be young with only one senior, but should have the depth to compete for a 4A title this year as a team.

5. Maize Eagles

2016 state finish: 10th in Class 5A

Top runners: Nate Jones, sr.; Kael Ecord, jr.; Jack Carver, sr.; Peyton Wardell, sr.

Outlook: Maize will be short on depth, but it will have a strong lineup with its top four runners returning. The Eagles will have a nice 1-2 punch at the top of their lineup with Jones, a state medalist from last season, and Ecord both back, while Carver and Wardell are both capable scoring runners. How fast Maize can develop a fifth scoring option will determine how far this team can go, but the team does have options in Alex Hill and Barrett Houchen.

Others to watch: Andover Central, East, Halstead, Newton, Smoky Valley.

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