The sun is out, the short shorts are on, and both of the Southeast of Saline cross country teams have one goal in mind – to run the rock at the famous Kansas University cross country course at state.
While the girls did not make it to state competition last year, this year the squad looks completely different. They’ve added skilled freshman varsity runners in Savannah Sutton, Ashley Prochazcka, and Avery Caselman. They also return sophomores Mallorie Pearson and Alaina Yianakopolos and senior Taygan McBurney.
Two transfer students will also run varsity – front runner Jentrie Alderson and exchange student Thea Holland. Alderson was a standout runner at South High School, capturing fifth place in the 1600 at the state track meet. She is likely to be one of the fastest girls this season in the 3A mix.
The improvement for the girls team over the past year is substantial; eight girls ran faster than last year’s number one runner’s time at time trials. They showed off this improvement by dominating the field at the Abilene Invitational Thursday, Sept. 5, placing 13 in the top 20 and posting a total of just 17 points. The second-place team was Abilene with 74. If the girls stay healthy, this could be a comeback season for a program rich in history.
The boys’ team is fresh off a 35-point win over Hugoton to capture last year’s state title, and is looking primed to repeat, for this season they believe they’ve improved even further.
“Last year our top five was loaded with freshmen and sophomores,” said junior runner Luke Gleason. “This year, we’ve got more experience, and want to go undefeated.”
With the Trojans ranked number one by kansasmilesplit.com and having five of the top 20 3A runners, that goal looks more than reasonable.
The Trojans did lose veteran runner Burke Clements, who had a strong showing that contributed to last year’s state title. To replace him, varsity runners look to freshman Damion Jackson.
“Damion will definitely be the guy to join our top seven. He was one of the fastest eighth graders around last year, and has been working hard in practice,” said junior runner Spencer Smith.
Smith also mentioned that those practices are becoming much more challenging. “We won last year, and to do it again we need to keep getting faster. Last year, we would run 3-4 miles, and this year our normal runs are always 5-6.”
With winning again being the team’s main goal, there are also some other must wins. The team lost twice last year, both times to Halstead. If they can win competitive meets like the Hesston Invitational and the home meet, they will be set up for a season sweep.
Another goal is to put more guys into all state. “Last year we had two guys make all state. This year, it could be possible for us to add a couple more,” said sophomore Dylan Sprecker.