Chieftains eye state title
THS chances strong for first boys crown since 1991
The Tonganoxie boys cross country slogan might as well be "state champs or bust."
The Chieftains finished eight points behind 4A powerhouse and state champ Baldwin in last year's state meet. A team title has been on the Chieftains' minds ever since that sunny fall day last October in Wamego.
"We can't wait until state to win it," said senior Kyle Norris, who finished eighth last year.
Norris' comment might seem bold, but various statistics offer support for the senior's confidence:
Last year, five of the top six runners in the state were seniors. Norris has the third-best time of returning runners from state last season.
Tonganoxie's eight-point difference from Baldwin was the closest margin of all classes last season. This year, the Bulldogs are without graduated senior and three-time state winner Matt Noonan and Eric Black, who took sixth last year. Noonan will run with Big 12 Conference school Missouri this year; Black will run at Kansas.
Alan Davis, now competing at Baker, finished in 12th at last year's state meet. Nathan Bailey was Tonganoxie's only other runner lost from last year who placed in the top 25. Bailey, now at Coffeyville Community College, was 21st.
Senior Tommy Powell took 30th last year, while Tony Aligo was 32nd.
Despite all the reasons why Tonganoxie is a strong favorite this year, Baldwin is a bigger favorite for one reason tradition.
THS still has to dethrone the Bulldogs, who have won the last four state titles. The Jim Maska state preseason rankings reflect that, as Baldwin is this year's favorite with 71 votes. Tonganoxie was picked second, grabbing 69 votes.
Along with wanting a state title, THS will pursue its seventh straight Kaw Valley League championship. The Chieftains last failed to win the crown in 1995.
But THS runners obviously will have their minds on another title. Coach Phil Williams said the team's efforts in the preseason have been encouraging as he takes a stab at his second state championship.
"If everything falls in to place, we should have a good shot," Williams said.
The Chieftains already completed their first "competition" of the year with the Red/White scrimmage Friday on the team's home course south of Tonganoxie. All runners improved on their times from last year. Norris finished with a 17 minute, 52 second time Friday, compared to 18:11 last year. Powell finished with a 19:44 time last fall, but was at 17:24 this year. Aligo shaved off 55 seconds (18:15) this year, while Levi Huseman trimmed his down 54 seconds (18:55).
Girls cross country
The Tonganoxie girls won't be expected to win any state titles this season, but the Chieftains do return much of last year's team that finished second in the KVL.
Senior Laura Korb returns to lead the Chieftains. Korb finished 24th at state in 2000 and 22nd last year. Williams said he also expects junior Elizabeth Smith to also lead THS this season. Tonganoxie lost four seniors Cara Langston, Sara Mages, Erin Seymour and Alicia Stauch to graduation, but Stauch was the lone state competitor. She finished 62nd last year.
In the girls' Red-White scrimmage Friday, every Chieftain runner improved from last year's scrimmage times. Korb finished in 13 minutes, 28 seconds, compared to 14:04 last season. Elizabeth Smith finished in 14:53, compared to 16:22 last year. Fellow junior Amanda Chenoweth improved her time also, going from 19:18 last year to 16:53 this year. Kelley Stauch finished in 15:26 this year, compared to 16:09 last season.
Williams said he was impressed with the early times.
"I've been really impressed with practice, both for the boys and girls," Williams said.
Tonganoxie begins its season Thursday at home in a quadrangular. The meet begins at 4 p.m. and Lansing, Basehor-Linwood and Kansas City Christian will also compete.