Nine straight state championships. That’s what the St. Thomas Aquinas boys cross country team is chasing this fall.
The Saints won their eighth-consecutive title last October. They held off Blue Valley Southwest by 14 points by having three guys finish in the top five of the Class 5 race.
Their top two runners were seniors, to go along with their fourth runner at state. Yet, the goals remain the same for the STA boys team.
On the girls side, STA narrowly finished runner-up at state. Mill Valley won the team title by two points over STA and seven over Great Bend, but the Jaguars lost three seniors including state champ Katie Schwartzkopf.
The Saints and Great Bend each graduate two seniors – including their top runner. They will once again be one of the top 5A teams this season.
STA will begin its season today at the Greg Wilson Classic, which is held at Shawnee Mission Park.
Coach Justin Wrigley answered some questions about his teams before the season officially begins.
How did the summer go for your teams?
We had a pretty good summer. Like others, we’ve had to work through little road bumps like vacations, summer camps, work schedules, etc., but I feel good about the level of consistency that we trained together for the most part. We trust the kids to take care of business when they are out of town or have to miss a team run when they’re at work and if we truly got the job done then we should see some nice improvements from a lot of kids this season.
Who is returning from your varsity squads from last fall?
• Girls – Sophia Spinello (jr), Quinn Babcock (sr), Lilly Blaufuss (sr), Lilly Mauk (jr), Anna Rose DiCarlo (so)
• Boys – Colby King (sr), Charlie Heap (sr), Alex Waldie (sr), JP Mallouk (jr)
Who are some newcomers or up-and-comers to varsity that you think might make an impact this season?
• Girls – Greta Kelley (so) had a very good freshman track season earning a varsity letter and has followed it up with a strong summer that should make her a fixture on the varsity lineup this fall. We have an awesome group of senior girls that have put in the time this season and we are excited to see how they progress and take advantage of this opportunity to lead the team at all levels. There is also a large group of freshmen girls that were very dedicated this summer and they are starting to learn how to push themselves and figure some things out. We believe that some of them might make an impact pretty quickly.
• Boys – Lance Meade (jr), Carter File (jr) and Noah Stanton (jr) will be new faces on the varsity this season that we are very excited about. They’ve had a very good summer running with the top guys every day. We really like what we’ve seen from this crew and are excited about where they could be by season’s end. We also have welcomed a new teammate, Noah Raknes, an exchange student who comes to us from Norway. Noah has quickly proven he has a strong work ethic and some exciting ability. He should also be a factor for us this season.
What excites you most about this year’s teams?
• I am really excited to see that we have a ton of new faces on the team this season. It will be up to the coaches and the seniors to make sure that we are teaching all of these new kids how to do things the right way and to make sure they feel welcome and appreciated.
• The way Colby King and Charlie Heap led this team this summer is very exciting. They know we have some work to do and they led a group of guys that worked very hard this summer. They really emphasized doing everything together so you can already see something brewing as this new team comes together. We are very excited to see how it all comes together this season.
• The girls return a big group from last year and have also added quite a few new kids so watching them come together this summer has been fun. Like the boys, there is still a ways to go so really the journey has only just begun. In some ways, this girls team still has to find their identity and put some pieces together but that’s part of the journey and certainly part of the fun.
• I’m excited to work with both groups and see how they can leave their own unique mark on the history of our program.