AUGUSTA, Kan. — Justin Wrigley knows his St. Thomas Aquinas boys cross country team might be spoken about in comparison to the legendary Shawnee Mission Northwest program.
He also knows that his Saints have a long way to go before they can catch the Cougars’ streak of state championships.
“It is definitely special every time,” Wrigley said. “Every team is its own story, it’s own journey and its own adventure. You have to get the job done every year, so yeah, every one is special.”
Wrigley’s Saints are inching closer to the record of consecutive championships set by SMNW. The Saints won their eighth-straight title Saturday at the 4 Mile Creek Resort.
STA senior Logan Seger has been a part of half of those titles. He hopes the streak continues long after he graduates this spring.
“I know a lot of people don’t get a chance to win one, so it’s really special to be on four of those teams,” Seger said. “The senior mindset is don’t be the one that ends it, but we want to get the next guys ready, because we want to keep it going. I know the juniors this year are definitely ready to take that one and get it next year.”
Their streak of Class 5A titles began in 2014. The Saints won the 2014 championship by 31 points over Garden City.
On Saturday, STA scored 55 team points and won by 14 over Blue Valley Southwest. It was their second-tightest victory during their eight-year stretch. The Saints won the 2017 title by 11 points over Mill Valley.
“Southwest ran really well, and I walked away thinking we had probably just got beat,” Wrigley said. “There were just enough individuals between our four and five to lessen the blow. That kind of stacked up in our favor, but Southwest and Bishop Carroll ran awesome.”
The SMNW boys program won 14-straight titles from 1994 to 2007 under coach Van Rose. It’s the most consecutive wins in state history.
This year’s victory by the Saints ties Baldwin’s streak of eight state titles in Class 4A. The Bulldogs’ streak began in 1998 and lasted through 2005 under coach Mike Spielman.
“I know Bishop Carroll did five in a row, because we were on the losing end of that year after year,” Wrigley said. “Just to be in the conversation with those programs is exciting for us. We’ll try to stay humble and stay focused, but those are fun things to think about on a day like today – after the race.”
When asked about closing in on the SMNW record, Wrigley joked about it, saying the kids that would be tying that record, if it would happen, are barely in middle school this year.
“Last year, it was half of what Northwest did, so let’s not talk about that,” Wrigley said. “I still probably won’t or shouldn’t, but you can’t because your imagination runs wild. You do think about those things if you’re goal oriented. It’s something we’ll eyeball, but the kids that could get that done would be in about sixth grade. We’ll take it one at a time and have fun with it to see if we can keep it going. We’re lucky to have some strong pieces return next year.”
When the runners began crossing the finish line, it appeared as if the Saints might run away with the title. They had three runners in the top five. Seger won his first-ever state title, but fellow senior Ashton Higgerson finished second.
Junior Colby King moved up in the standings during the final stretch of the race, all the way up to fifth place. During the next 40 seconds, 20 more runners came in before STA senior Frank Curran, who place 26th. Junior Charles Heap rounded out the team’s scoring with a 44th-place finish.
“Those guys ran to their strengths, and Logan got out early like he likes to do,” Wrigley said. “Ashton kind of likes to chase the lead pack and out kick them, and he did a great job of that. Colby comes from way back, and he’s got some of superhuman internal clock or something because he was about 80th or 90th about 400 meters in. We try not to panic, because that’s what he does, and he moved his way up and got in the mix of things. Frank and Charlie closed well for our fourth and fifth.”
Junior Alexander Waldie (49) and sophomore John Mallouk (72) were the final two runners for STA.
Meanwhile, all seven of the BVSW runners finished before Waldie. BVSW medaled three runners, too, with their fourth and fifth runners placing just outside the top 20.
Leading the way for the Timberwolves was junior Micah Paschke. He finished seventh overall in a time of 16:13.5. Senior Drew Dombrosky (16) and sophomore Thomas Caul (18) were the other BVSW medalists.
Completing the BVSW team were senior Gabe McGee (24), sophomore Crew Buehler (27), freshman Canyon Buehler (36) and senior Brenden Duncan (47).
Bishop Carroll clipped St. James Academy for third place and a state trophy. Bishop Carroll scored 91 points, beating St. James by a mere five points.
– Story by Jimmy Gillispie