Mulvane cross country coach Dale Landes does not talk about those championships with his team. It is not meant to downplay their significance.
“We just don’t talk about the past. I don’t make references to it because that’s not fair to them. These guys are special in their own way,” Landes said. “We just need to get back to state. Last year, there was some disappointment that we didn’t make it, and I think these guys are geared toward getting back to state.”
In 2010, the Wildcats settled for the runner-up trophy. This past season, the squad did not qualify as a whole.
That result is still burning with the runners.
“When we didn’t and came so close, we were all disappointed,” said senior Ren Bean. “Next year, we’d have to fight that much harder and make it worth the time.”
Bean was a transfer student from Wellington a year ago. Rules stated he could not compete for Mulvane that fall, but he could practice. In the spring, he qualified for state in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs in track and field.
Coming into this year, Mulvane’s roster was packed, with everyone returning. With the addition of Bean, Mulvane may not just make it back to state – the Wildcats might reclaim first place.
“I know we’re definitely planning on making state this year, and our goal this year is to win state, hopefully. If not win, place top three at least,” Bean said. “We know that people look at us – are gunning for us. We like it. It’s fun for us.
“We show up at meets and see all the people we know, then have some playful trash talking, go out and race each other and wish each other the best of luck. It doesn’t put any pressure on us.”
Miles Hilgers (29th), Levi Carver (33rd) and Kyle Spotts (54th) all qualified individually for state a year ago. Also back is the competitive brother duo of Luca and Liam Trooien-Smith.
Landes said the key for the Wildcats is health. With six consistent runners, finding a seventh and an alternate would be a considerable boost to the team’s depth. Bean said the teammates will work on more hills, preparing them for courses with rougher terrain.
Among the notable Kansas courses with hills – Wamego, the site of the 4A state championships.
Meghan Carver made her debut in Wamego as a freshman this past season. Carver made an immediate impression, placing 31st in a time of 16:42.
Landes said Carver is a candidate for medal contention this time around.
“Meghan Carver is just a very strong runner,” he said. “Her speed is something we need to work on, but her strength is basically what allowed her to have such a great season last year.”
Mulvane will get an early peek of the Wamego course at an invitational event on Sept. 8. Regionals are Oct. 20, with the state meet back in Wamego a week later.