In recent years, the Lancer cross country team hasn’t had a whole lot to boast about besides it’s massive size and a select few runners who qualified for state. Great runners have come and gone, yet there never has really been an entire Varsity squad that have been on the same page. The team has seemed to be in a state of development for a while now, but this year could be the year where it all comes together.
On Saturday, August 27, the team ran its annual time trial at Shawnee Mission Park. Out of the 200+ member group, it became clear where the dominance lay. In the boys top 10, eight are seniors; in the girls, six. If there was ever a year for the cross country to send a team to state, this is the one. The boys are spearheaded by senior Mitch Daniel, a three-year runner, who ran a 17:32 5K on Saturday, beating runner-up senior Adam Simmons by a whole 20 seconds. But what makes this boys group so dangerous is that Daniel is not the only point scorer. The three seniors behind Daniel are only six seconds apart; the entire 10-man group has a little over a minute and a half split between them. On top of this, the JV squad has runners that are all within a minute of each other, and the best of them could be in competition for Varsity time if any current member falters.
On the girls side, the top three runners are all underclassmen, but the bulk of the team is filled with a rather sturdy senior lineup. It’s a strong mix of youth and leadership, which makes the girls chances of big season just as good as the boys. Once again, the times are close, despite being so fast. Junior Anna Colby led the team with a 17:33 4K time, but she was closely followed by sophomore Annie Kuklenski and freshman Hannah Arnspiger who ran 17:37 and 17:39 respectively. The senior girls that followed, led by Emily Kerr and Kennedy Burgess, all sported times within 14 seconds of each other. This team, much like the boys, will be pushed by many JV members as four girls are within 10 seconds of the time posted by the tenth member, junior Tiernan Shank.
As the team looks ahead to the Greg Wilson Classic at JCCC this upcoming Saturday, they still know that a lot of work must be done in order to reach their high aspirations and full potential. This race will be the first featuring outside competition, and will truly show where the Lancer squad stands currently against other strong schools, such as Shawnee Mission Northwest.
“The trial was a great way to start your engines for the season,” head coach Tricia Beaham said to the team in a post-run e-mail, “There were some great performances and excitement that was generated for the season.”
Now the question is, can this experienced, smart, and skilled team live up to such excitement?