By Jimmy Gillispie
A newcomer to Class 6A might be winning gold Saturday morning a year after finishing runner-up two classes down as a freshman.
Shawnee Mission North sophomore Micah Blomker is one of the favorites to win the 6A boys title when the race starts at 10:40 a.m. at the 4 Mile Creek Resort. But the elder statesmen in 6A won’t let him walk away with the title without giving him a battle.
Blomker’s finish could help Shawnee Mission North in the team race and possibly help it win its first state title in more than 40 years.
Last year’s top two teams from state competed at the same regional last week, and both are expected to be among the top teams this year, too. So is Olathe South, which is top ranked and has shown to be one of the best teams in this 6A this year.
Let’s take a look at the top contender teams and individuals for the 6A boys meet:
Micah Blomker, Shawnee Mission North — As a freshman at Bishop Miege, Blomker placed runner-up in Class 4A. This year, he’s competing for the Bison and could bring home gold in 6A. He ran the top time in the state to begin the season, so his future is bright, but a state title would be a big cherry on top of his sophomore campaign.
Carter Stewart, Olathe East — A year after placing 20th at a super tough regional and missing out on state, Stewart won last week’s regional. The top Olathe East runner ran 15:43 last week, and is expected to compete for gold Saturday. Stewart placed 29th as a freshman, so his first state medal seems apparent.
Ben Shryock, Free State — The top returning medalist from last year’s 6A meet improved 50 spots from his sophomore to junior year. He leads the defending champion Firebirds back to state, where his placing will set the tone for the squad. Shryock was seventh last year, but where will he finish Saturday?
Daniel Zoller, Wichita East — The fourth regional champ placed 28th last year as a junior, but could make a big jump in the standings to close out his prep career. Zoller is one of just two Wichita East runners at state, so he shouldn’t be burdened to perform well for his school, giving him freedom to let loose.
Wyatt Haughton, Shawnee Mission East — The Lancers top runner lost to Blomker at regional, but clipped him by a second the week prior at the Sunflower League meet. Two years ago, he placed 33rd at state, but should contend for the state title this year. Expect Haughton to battle for the gold.
Henry Born, Shawnee Mission Northwest — Another victim of last year’s incredibly tough Shawnee Mission South regional, Born has burst on the scene this year. His junior seasons should end well, and he might even surprise a few folks come Saturday.
Aidan Reyna, Olathe West — While the Owls girls team could win state again, Reyna is the only male state participant from Olathe West. He finished as regional runner-up, but could bring home his third state medal, adding to the already successful program at OW in just its short time of existence.
Ben Mosier, Manhattan — The fourth-highest placing returning runner from last year’s state meet could help his team with another solid finish. He was 13th last year as a junior when Manhattan placed second as a team. Can he lead Manhattan to its first state title since 2013?
Matthew Tolman, Olathe South — For three years, Tolman has been a very good runner for Olathe South, but hasn’t medaled at state. This year, the Falcons are aiming for the program’s first state title. A big finish from Tolman could go a long way toward that coveted championship trophy.
Josh Caldwell, Olathe North — A first state medal seems likely for Olathe North’s lone representative Saturday. He placed 44th last year, but a fourth-place finish at last week’s tough regional should propel him into the state meet with confidence.
Olathe South — The top-ranked team comes into state fresh of a regional victory where its top five runners averaged a time of 16:28. The Falcons have never won a state title in boys cross country. Could this be the year? History could quite possibly be made Saturday.
Shawnee Mission North — A narrow regional victory for the second-ranked team shouldn’t be any cause for concern. The Bison might have the best runner in the state to pace them to the program’s first state championship since 1975 when it won its second-straight title.
Free State — The defending champion graduated two of its top three runners from a year ago. Yet, they are still in the mix to contend for gold. The Firebirds will need big-time performances all around, but they could definitely on the podium Saturday.
Manhattan — Gone is last year’s state champion Daniel Harkin, but Manhattan is back at state and motivated by last year’s second-place finish. A close loss at regionals to Free State has Manhattan a team to be weary of at state.
Olathe East — The Hawks lost to the No. 1 ranked team last week, but proved they belong averaging 16:34 on a quick regional course. They have a possible state champ leading the way, so a second title in the past six years could happen.
Shawnee Mission East — A seven-point loss at regionals is no reason to count out the Lancers. They have never won a state title, but should be expected to compete with the best this weekend.