By Jimmy Gillispie
Can any team knock the St. Thomas Aquinas boys cross country team from its throne Saturday at the Class 5A state meet?
The Saints have stood atop 5A as kings of the mountain since 2014, knocking down anyone who attempts to take their crown. Will they remain on top and win a seventh-consecutive championship or will a new title holder emerge from the crowd in Augusta?
One thing is for certain – there will be a new individual champion crowned Saturday. The rest will be played out on the 4 Mile Creek Resort course. The 5A boys will run at 11:20 a.m. Saturday.
Let’s take a look at the breakdown of individual and team contenders for the 5A boys state meet:
Carson McEachern, Bishop Carroll — The three-time state qualifier is the highest finishing returner from last year’s state meet. He finished fourth as a sophomore and runner-up last year. Could this be the year McEachern is crowned champion? He is fresh off wins at his league and regional meet, but his regional time was much slower than a few runners at other courses.
Logan Seger, St. Thomas Aquinas — Possibly the top contender for the state title, Seger posted a 15:14 en route to winning the regional Saturday. It was easily the best time across any of the 5A regionals. He finished fourth at state last year as a junior, after placing 9th and 14th as a sophomore and freshman, respectively.
Ashton Higgerson, St. Thomas Aquinas — Another strong contender for the Saints after a runner-up finish at regionals to his teammate. Higgerson is the fifth-fastest male runner across all classes this fall. He finished seventh at state last year, but his own teammate stands in his way for an individual title.
Eli Moore, St. James Academy — The Thunder senior finished fourth at the stacked regional Saturday, but he placed eighth at state a year ago. Moore medaled as a sophomore, and the Thunder will need a strong performance from him as they battle for a state trophy.
Kory Sutton, Shawnee Heights — One of two runners from Shawnee Heights who could contend for the individual title. He won last week’s regional, narrowly defeating his teammate. Sutton finished 33rd last year, and should make a tremendous leap in the standings this year, but how high will he finish?
Jackson Esquibel, Shawnee Heights — Just a sophomore in this field of primarily upperclassmen contending for the state title. He lost a close race to his teammate at regionals, but looks to improve on his 30th place state finish from 2020. Esquibel and Sutton are battling history, as the past few 5A state champs have been seniors. Can they change that this year?
Angesom Vega, Mill Valley — Another contender from the toughest regional in the state last week. The Jaguar sophomore saw some of his best competition a week ago, but he’s posted a much faster time early in the season. After a 25th place finish last year, it seems like this is the year he medals, maybe even brings home gold.
Colby King, St. Thomas Aquinas — Seems crazy three Saints could compete for the state title, but it’s true. King was the third finisher at regionals, but he ran 15:47 – the fourth-fastest time from any regional. There could be a good race among teammates for the title this Saturday.
St. Thomas Aquinas — Start with the obvious favorite. The Saints have won seven-straight state titles, and look poised to make it eight. They have three of the top runners in the state, and posted a 16:05 average for their scoring runners at last week’s regional. They are ranked No. 1 for a reason, but can they bring home the gold Saturday?
Blue Valley Southwest — The toughest competition for STA could be one of the two qualifying teams from its regional. Blue Valley Southwest averaged a 16:32 and finished second last week. Does BVSW have enough to overtake the kings at the top?
St. James Academy — The Thunder also had a scoring average of 16:32 last week, but fell to third in the team standings. They have firepower at the top of the order, but need quality races from others to bring home the gold. St. James finished second to STA last year.
Bishop Carroll — With two ranked teams ahead of Bishop Carroll not qualifying at the tough St. James regional, Bishop Carroll is in prime position to earn a trophy. The Golden Eagles placed fourth a year ago, but could make a run for the top Saturday.
Maize — A narrow victory at regionals, might have been what Maize needed to get into the trophy contention this week. Maize finished fifth last year at state, but a repeat of the 0:38 split from regionals could go a long way at the state meet to making big things happen.
Maize South — Will a close regional loss motivate Maize South this week? It has a pair of top runners, but the depth must run well at state to contend. Maize South placed sixth last year, so a trophy run could be happening this Saturday.