Area cross country runners will compete at various state meets Saturday. The Central Heights boys and girls and West Franklin girls will compete for team championships.
The Falcons run in the Class 3A state meet at Rim Rock in Lawrence. The Viking squads are at Wamego in the Class 2A race. West Franklin freshman Kyle Haner qualified for the boys race as an individual.
The 3A girls race starts at 10 a.m. and the boys race at 11:45 a.m. in Lawrence. The 2A girls race is set for 11:10 a.m. and the boys at 12:55 p.m. in Wamego.
The West Franklin girls are back-to-back regional champions. Falcon freshman Emma Bailey is coming off a regional gold medal performance and her teammates all placed in the top 25 at the regional race.
West Franklin coach Ryan Hahn said the Falcons are tested and ready to compete against the best runners in 3A.
“They have shown themselves to be reliable when faced with a challenge,” Hahn said after the regional race. “As the competition has risen, so have they. I am encouraged by their performances and excited for the state championship.”
Haner battled his way to the front after getting off to a slow start in the regional race where the freshman finished eighth.
The Central Heights boys have been a juggernaut all season. The Vikings are the defending state champions and ranked No. 2 behind Stanton County in the latest coaches poll. The boys have won three straight regional titles and qualified for state as a team four years in a row.
“With the pressure of qualifying finally off, now the focus turns to the last seven days of the season,” Central Heights coach Troy Prosser said following the regional race. “There is no way to predict how things will turn out (Saturday), but one certainty is that the kids will do their best to enjoy the opportunity.”
The coach said both teams put together the most impressive races of the season, but in very different ways.
Prosser said the boys team is primed for a run at another state championship.
“The best news is — like the girls team — having all of the boys healthy enough to race for the first time all season long,” he said. “Jarod (Crawford) missed almost four months and Nick (Schultze) keeps getting more experience and confidence every week.”
The Viking girls, who are ranked No. 4 in the latest coaches poll, garnered their first regional title since 1992 and two years ago they only had one runner on the squad. Madison Bridges, Abby Brown and Lily Meyer are the leaders of the squad as all three will be competing in their second state race.
“Every step of the way, these girls have embraced the challenges put in front of them and they are excited about the next one,” Prosser said.