Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 31 August 2010 17:12
Even though the Hillsboro High School cross-country team graduated its lone state qualifier from 2009 in Nathan Vogel, the Trojans will have a state qualifier on this year’s squad.
But it will be his premier season in Kansas.
Joel Allen will compete as a Trojan in his senior year after running at state last season with his Minnesota high school team.
Allen, who transfered to Hillsboro after cross country season, made his mark in the Sunflower State in spring when he finished third in the 3,200 meters at the Class 3A state track and field meet.
Allen has been running hard this summer to train for his cross-country debut for HHS.
“It takes a good amount of self-discipline and determination to run 350 miles like he has this summer,” said Stuart Holmes, in his eighth year as the Trojan coach.
“His leadership and competitiveness will certainly benefit the team, and obviously with him placing third at state track last year, he has the potential to be one of the top runners in cross country as well.”
Running with Allen as the only returning letter-winners at HHS are junior Bret Mueller, senior Justin King and sophomore Josh Richert.
Mueller was Hillsboro’s top finisher at the Mid-Central Activities Association meet, running the 5-kilometer course in 17:45. King placed 35th in 19:12 and Richert 48th in 19:57.
“These three provide a solid group of guys that can all run competitively, and with the addition of a quality runner like Joel Allen at semester last year, hopes are that we will be one of the top teams in the area,” Holmes said.
To experience that level of success, his returning letter-winners will need to show improvement from a year ago.
“How hungry they are will, in part, help determine if they improve just a little this year or if they’ll have significant improvement.”
Confident in his top four runners, Holmes said he’s looking to see who will step up to fill the two remaining slots in a six-man varsity lineup.
“One key is how well sophomore Daniel Gray, as well as freshmen Clay Etheridge and Avery Frantz run,” he said. “Will one or two of them be able to run well enough to fill out the team with solid fifth and sixth runners?”
The size of the Trojan girls’ team will quadruple this fall with three runners joining junior Samantha Ens, last season’s lone competitor, who placed 31st in the MCAA with a time 19:08 over 4 kilometers.
Joining her with cross-country experience is Brenna Blackketter, who lettered as a freshman but sat out her sophomore year. Junior Michaela Hinerman and freshman Erin Wiebe round out the squad.
“I expect all these girls to have a good season,” Holmes said. “They have made good progress so far in practice and will continue to improve this season as they gain experience and confidence in their conditioning.”
Holmes is pleased with what he’s seen so far in preseason.
“Overall, the athletes have been accepting the challenge to run the kind of workouts that it takes to run cross country, and their attitudes have been great,” he said. “If everyone keeps working hard and keeps a good attitude, we will see the kind of improvement that makes for a successful season.”
Hillsboro will compete in the new Central Kansas League this fall, with the league race scheduled for Oct. 14 at Sterling.
The new league includes the top six teams from last year’s MCAA boys’ race: Hesston as champion, followed by Lyons, Hillsboro, Smoky Valley, Halstead and Sterling.
Hillsboro will open its competitive season Saturday, Sept. 4, at the always competitive J.K. Gold Classic near Augusta. Races start at 8 a.m.