One more race.
That’s all that is left of the 2017 high school cross country season.
That race, with six different classifications competing on their own in both girls and boys divisions, will take place Saturday at two locations.
Classes 6A, 5A and 3A will run at historic Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, generally regarded as one of the best and toughest layouts not just in Kansas, but in the United States.
Classes 4-2-1A will compete at Wamego Country Club, a layout known for its up and down hills that challenge the state’s best.
Southwest Kansas will once again be well-represented Saturday at the two sites and the six classifications.
Here’s a look at each of the four classifications of area schools competing Saturday.
After winning both the girls and boys Class 3A titles in 2016, Hugoton’s Eagles are back in 4A and return to Wamego Country Club.
Coach Nick Rodriguez has once again put together a boys team that may contend for the state title, and certainly is among the favorites for a top three team finish.
The Eagles easily won their regional team title last Saturday in McPherson, scoring just 36 points to win by 57 over Smoky Valley.
They did so by having four runners finish among the top 10, led by senior Abraham Garcia-Aguirre, a fourth-place finisher in 2016 in 3A.
“I think if you look carefully at results and times through the season, it sets up for us to compete with Circle and Andover Central,” Rodriguez said Wednesday. “The key factor will be the 1 to 5 runner gap, and ours has been right around 1:20 to 1:30. We finished second to Circle at the Wamego Invitational, so we know what the competition looks like.”
While the Hugoton boys have been solid throughout the season with high expectations, it is the girls team, which placed third at regionals to earn a spot for Saturday’s race, that has Rodriguez smiling the most.
“We lost five runners from last year’s team, and we’re without two of our other top runners,” Rodriguez said. “These girls (all underclassmen) have just been amazing, and have worked so hard, so I was just as thrilled with their effort Saturday as I was with the boys winning.”
Individually, Ulysses freshman Yessenia Ornelas will compete after placing third at the regional. Holcomb’s boys will be represented by seniors Efrain Flores and Christopher Nemechek, who placed sixth and seventh at the regionals.
It will be Scott City that will carry the team flag for western Kansas in this class at Rim Rock Farm.
The Beavers won the boys division at their regional, with junior Jack Thomas leading the way, while the girls finished behind TMP-Marian as senior Makaela Stevens placed third individually.
Coach Kevin Reese is looking for solid performances from both of his individual stars as well as the teams.
“They’re both outstanding runners and have really dedicated themselves to the sport,” Reese said of Thomas and Stevens.
Thomas placed eighth as a sophomore in Class 4A in 2016 while Stevens medaled in 16th place.
“Makaela has run at Rim Rock before and I think she’s peaking at the right time,” Reese said. “She’s just started getting back to running the times she ran at Rim Rock a couple of years ago.”
As far as Thomas goes, Reese is excited to see what his junior can do on the historic course.
“He’s never run there before, but he’s had a successful season and hasn’t really been tested since Wamego (Invitational, which he won),” Reese said. “He’ll have a big test from the Kingman kid (Robert Pearce, the 2016 3A state champion and also a junior), so it should be a really good race.”
Reese said Halstead will be among the team contenders after finishing second to Hugoton a year ago.
Lakin’s girls will be represented by two top 10 finishers — sophomore Sara White who was fifth in 22:00.26 and junior Jennifer Crum, who was ninth in 22:41.78.
Stanton County Trojans.
It has a historic ring to it.
Nineteen state team championships, 10 on the boys side and nine on the girls. They, too, will join 4A and 1A runners at Wamego.
The Trojans’ Dodie Martin, from 1995 to 1998, became the first four-time winner in the girls division in the sport and set a standard that has not been matched from southwest Kansas since.
Rebeca Avelar was the most recent individual titlist, winning in 2016 before heading off to Fort Hays State University.
This year’s Trojans, both boys and girls, have re-tooled with underclassmen after being hit hard by graduation.
Coach Mike Horton has freshman Peyton Peterson leading the way after a third-place individual finish at Meade’s regional. Sophomore Caelyn Cook was sixth, and considering there are only five girls running — all scores counting — there’s no margin of error.
“I’m so excited for both the girls and boys, because I think most people didn’t think we’d be as good as we’ve been,” Horton said. “It’s been a rebuilding year, but I think this group of kids have taken it upon themselves to carry that torch from the past. They’ve put in the miles, they’ve worked hard.”
At times through the season, Horton said he didn’t have a full girls team because some of his runners also played on the golf team (a second-place finish recently in Class 3-2-1A state).
“I think we’ve got chances to be among the top four teams if the kids run well,” Horton said. “We’re super young, and we just hope to have everybody back because they’re talented and they understand what running for Stanton County means.”
Sophomore Isaiah Barrera (3rd) and junior Jose Rodriguez (7th) were the top individuals for the boys team that won with 72 points.
Barrera was ninth a year ago when the Trojans just missed winning the 2A title by one point.
“Both the boys and girls know they are part of something bigger than themselves,” Horton said. “The kids we have now learned from some of our best, who also learned from some of our best. And it just goes back, and back and back to when everything got started.”
The Syracuse Bulldog girls also qualified, taking third at the Greeley County/Tribune regional.
Wichita County’s boys team also surged to the top on Saturday at Tribune’s 2A regional. John Biermann’s runner-up finish (18:33.27) led the Indians to 66 points, three ahead of Oakley.
Syracuse’s Christopher Giancola was third and he qualified individually for state.
Nedra Gallegos, Margo Stum and Macey DeWeese were the top SHS finishers, placing 13th, 15th and 16th to lead the team to 68 points and slip into the third spot by three points.
In hosting the area’s Class 1A regional at Prairie Ridge Golf Course, the Greeley County Jackrabbits put themselves into home course advantage and it paid off.
The Jackrabbit girls squeaked out a 26 to 28 win over Ingalls with Wallace County just one more point behind.
South Gray’s Sarah Tarn was the top area finisher, taking second, with Ingalls’ Kaylee Simon fourth, South Gray’s McKaylee Batman sixth and Ingalls’ Hailey Minet eighth.
Greeley County coach Greg Cook, who has guided the girls team to eight state titles over the past 11 years, is pinning his team’s title hopes on the four runners he has.
Leading that group is sophomore Lauren Crotinger and freshman Jordyn Bosson. Bosson missed much of the season with an injury, but has fully recovered and has run well in the last two weeks, Cook said.
Crotinger and Bosson ran fifth and seventh at regionals while seniors Abigail Berggren and Arely Yanez round out his squad.
“If we tie, we’re toast, because all we have is the four girls,” Cook said Wednesday. “We’ve got to win this one outright. I’m convinced that we’ve got some good experience and put ourselves in position to have a chance Saturday if we run to our expectations.”
Cook said that when the season began, he had two other runners but they opted for other activities, and thus he’s counting on just his four team members.
“One of the key factors will be how Jordyn runs Saturday, because she’s run so close to Lauren,” Cook said. “We’ll need the other two to step up their placements some to have a shot at it. We’ve had our share of good races, I’ll not deny that, so if they step up and do the things we’ve asked of them, good things do happen.”
Individually, Satanta will have Sicely Jackson on the girls side and Rosalio Ruiz on the boys side competing in 1A.