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FEATURED PROGRAM: Saint Thomas Aquinas HS, Overland Park, Kansas

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

It's time to give credit where credit it due.


Each week, Coaching Distance will shine the spotlight on an exceptional high school distance program. This week's featured team is Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, from Overland Park, Kansas.


SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS HS

KANSAS 5A


THE COACH

JUSTIN WRIGLEY

  • Boys & Girls Head Cross Country Coach

  • Boys & Girls Head Track & Field Coach (Distance)















ABOUT COACH WRIGLEY


Coach Wrigley has coached for 21 years, all of which have been at St. Thomas Aquinas.


When asked what he enjoys most about coaching, Coach Wrigley replied,


"I love the connections made with athletes and coaches. It's hard to put into words the incredible friendships and memories made over the years with other people who also love our sport.


I love going to meets for both the thrill of the competition, but also the fun of catching up with other coaches and friends.


We’ve had numerous alums become coaches, and to watch them grow and thrive is an absolute thrill! Being invited to the weddings of alums will definitely draw some tears of joy!"


THE PROGRAM

BACKGROUND

With 880 students, the Saints compete in Kansas' second-largest classification. Coach Wrigley's squads have experienced incredible success in Kansas and beyond.


The Saint Thomas Aquinas Girls Cross Country team has won 10 State championships since the school was established in 1988 and the Boys have won 12 State titles, including eight straight.


Coach Wrigley shared some recent history on the program:

  • 2015 girls XC finished 3rd at NXR Heartland, the best girls team finish in KS history.

  • 2013 girls XC scored 15 points at state.

  • 2014 girls XC scored 19 points at state.

  • 2015 boys XC scored 22 points at state.

  • 2021 Logan Seger finished 3rd at NXR Heartland in 15:10, the fastest NXR time in KS history.

  • 2021 Boys 4xMile placed 6th at the Outdoor Nationals at Hayward Field and ran the fastest 4xMile in Kansas history.

  • 2016 Boys DMR placed 7th at New Balance Outdoor Nationals and ran the fastest DMR in Kansas history. 10:12.64

  • 2014 Girls 4xMile placed 7th at New Balance Outdoor Nationals and ran the fastest 4xMile in Kansas History. 20:39.24

  • 2005 Jason Collett placed 9th at Adidas Outdoor Nationals in the 800m with a time of 1:52.35. Jason was a frosh my first year coaching. He ran 1:58 that year and inspired me to hit the books. He went on to run 1:47 at Kansas State University and become an All American. I still consider him to be the catalyst of my coaching career and the modern era of our program.

  • We’ve been blessed to have 5 cross country Kansas Gatorade runner of the year winners with another finalist this year, Logan Seger. Previous winners include PJ Greer 2008, Will Cole 2016, Olivia Sovereign 2017 and Ethan Marshall in 2017 and 2018. We are tied with Washburn Rural for the most in Kansas history.

  • We have also been fortunate enough to finish 1-2-3 or 1-2-3-4 in state championship track and cross country races several times since 2013.

  • 2013 - Girls XC finished 1-2-3-4-7 at state (15 points)

  • 2014 - Girls finished 1-2-3 in the state 3200m

  • 2014 - Girls finished 1-2-3 in the state 1600m

  • 2014 - Girls XC finished 1-2-4-5-7-8 at state (18 points)

  • 2015 - Girls XC finished 1-2-3 at state

  • 2015 - Boys XC finished 1-2-3-4-13 (22 points)

  • 2021 - Boys track finished 1-2-3 in the state 1600m

CROSS COUNTRY

2021 HIGHLIGHTS

  • Our boys were the Kansas 5A state champions for the 8th year in a row. The girls were the Kansas 5A state runners up and just two points behind first. Individually, senior Logan Seger was the state champion with teammates Ashton Higgerson (senior) and Colby King (junior) close behind in 2nd and 5th.


  • The girls were led by senior Marieke Krebs in 4th place and sophomore Sophia Spinello in 20th. Both girls were running cross country for the fist time and had incredible rookie seasons. Marieke may be a senior but she's also just 16 years old. She's an exchange student from Germany and showed incredible promise in her very first season of competitive running. Sophia joined us mid summer and was a former volleyball player. She has a toughness that gave our program a real kick in the butt. I am really excited about her future.


  • The girls have a tremendous opportunity in 2022 to compete for their first state team title since 2018 and the boys have an incredible challenge before them to fight for their 9th straight title but I’m optimistic the are up to the task. We’ll need a great winter, spring and summer but that’s why I love this job!

TRACK & FIELD

2021 HIGHLIGHTS

Coach Wrigley wrote:

  • Our school does not have a track, so we have to constantly find ways to be creative and adapt to the circumstances. We try to just stay positive and find ways to get better while still having fun.

  • Despite this challenge, the girls were state champions and the boys were state runner-up, just 3 points behind first.

  • 2021 was a pretty incredible state meet for our kids. Our kids went 1-2-3 in the Boys 1600m and 1-2 in the Boys 3200m, Girls Long Jump and Girls Triple Jump.

  • Distance Highlights: In the Boys 3200m, Tommy Hazen and Logan Seger both broke the former state meet record and finished 1-2. Hazen ran 9:05 and Seger ran 9:09.

  • Later that day, the meet jumped ahead of schedule by about 45 minutes and our three boys in the 1600m almost missed the race while they were warming up. Luckily, they got checked in just in time and in a tactical race in the pouring rain they all closed hard and were able to finish 1-2-3 with Seger in first (4:22), Ashton Higgerson in second (4:23) and Hazen in third (4:23).

  • Those three boys (Seger, Higgerson and Hazen) and their teammate Colby King, went on to finish sixth place in the 4xMile relay at the Outdoor Nationals at Hayward Field later that summer.

  • Seger went on to run 4:13 for the full mile at the Festival of Miles in St. Louis one week after our state meet.

  • Other outdoor nationals qualifiers from our program included: Paris Bond - 13-01 Pole Vaulter and Grace Allen, a 19-05 Long Jumper

  • Fun Fact: Caroline Bien, a High Jumper who finished 4th at state in 2021, and had a PR of 5-06, was recently named Big 12 freshman of the year for volleyball. I can’t possibly emphasize enough how valuable it is to have multi sport athletes on our team, even if we have to juggle club sport conflicts. Caroline was critical to our success and we thank her for finding a way to compete instead of finding excuses not to compete. That’s why she’s such a stud! I hope others follow her lead!

THE WORKOUTS

CROSS COUNTRY TRAINING

MONDAY -

Long Run with some kind of work assigned to it. We'll often rotate through different things like a progression run or some timed segments of faster running. Those segments could be tempo pace or faster.

TUESDAY-

Mileage and weights.

WEDNESDAY -

This is usually our main workout of the week and we run through a variety of paces. We almost always get some threshold work in and we follow it up with faster running such as race pace, hill sprints, 200m repeats at 1600m or faster.


We try to finish our workouts with something pretty quick and we like to use the phrase, "As fast as you can without straining" when instructing kids on our finishing speed work.

THURSDAY-

This is probably everyone's favorite day of the week. We start the day with team Mass in our chapel before school (We are a Catholic School) and then practice after school is mileage and weights again but followed by a team dinner in our school commons. Thursday's are pretty fun.

FRIDAY-

Usually a pre-meet day, and even though it's an easy day, we still like to get full volume. The kids that run 6, 7 or 8 miles normally will come in before school and get a few easy miles so they are doing about the same volume as everyone else in the practice after school.


We want to have the after school practice timed out so everyone is done at about the same time because we follow it up with a team meeting where we talk about the upcoming meet and do our visualization exercise.

SATURDAY-

Race

SUNDAY-

Either off or easy, depending on the kid and their training volume.


TRACK & FIELD TRAINING

MONDAY -

We try to do the majority of our faster paced work or anything with a longer recovery time frame on Monday.


We will often have two workout groups on Monday and some kids will do something that would possibly be described as more middle distance and the other group as longer distance. Both groups will have a variety of paces and a sufficient volume of work but it's fun to watch kids argue over which group is getting the "easier" workout. If nothing else, Monday's are entertaining.


TUESDAY-

Mileage and weights. I don't love that we do our weight training on our recovery days but at the moment, it just fits there better for us.


WEDNESDAY -

This is usually a workout consisting primarily of threshold work but it will be paired with faster running as well, usually at the end.


The MD group will do a lower volume of threshold work and then some 800m specific work. The LD group will do a higher volume of threshold work and then something faster at the end, often times 200m cut-downs.


THURSDAY -

This is our pre-meet day and like in XC, we want to get full volume on this day for most of the season. Some of the kids will run part of it before school and part of it after. Others will do everything after school.


Unfortunately, we don't get to have a team meeting and do our visualization exercise together because Thursdays are also JV meet days so I am rarely at practice on Thursday. Anytime we have a meet, I like to be there.


FRIDAY -

Most of our varsity meets are on Friday.


I am blessed to have an assistant distance coach that will stay at school and supervise practice for the JV kids while I am at the varsity meet. After practice, they will usually meet us at the meet.


SATURDAY -

I know it's not ideal, but on Saturday we do our long runs.


It's usually designed as a recovery effort for the kids that raced on Friday but we'll build in some work for the JV kids that raced on Thursday.


SUNDAY -

Off or easy depending on the individual.


FAVORITE WORKOUTS

Coach Wrigley provided some awesome workout examples.


He wrote:


I am going to have to cheat and name a few because they are all critical in my opinion.


Nothing will dazzle you about our training, it's all pretty "textbook" and not very flashy, but these are my favorites.


I love threshold training and hill sprints! I love mixing paces in a single workout on a regular basis. We do a lot of timed threshold runs, or what Daniels calls cruise intervals. It's usually something broken up with very short rest like 5-6x 4:00 or any other variation totaling 20-24 minutes of volume, usually about 8% of weekly volume.


Once in a while we'll do 2x 3200m at threshold pace with 2:00 rest. That would be a pretty big workout for us. We love to follow threshold work with 200m repeats at 1600m pace or some hill sprints.


I also absolutely love regularly doing 100m hill sprints with 100m walk and 300m jogging for recovery.


Threshold and hill sprints work for us all year long.


During track season, I love 2x broken 800's with big rest. The kids will run 500m at 800m pace, jog 100m and then kick 300m all out. They take a big active rest and then they do it again.


Finally, I really love a weekly long run, often with some kind of hook, like a progressive second half or maybe some surges mixed in along the way. We vary the surges depending on the time of the year. Could be 5k pace, could be tempo or threshold pace.


If we have all of those things present all year long then I tend to feel really good that we're going to get better.

 


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