Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 30 August 2011 16:44
Filling the running shoes of Class 3A runner-up Joel Allen and all-league performer Justin King will be a challenge for this fall’s Hillsboro cross-country team. But coach Stuart Holmes sees signs that his returning runners plan to pick up the pace.
“You can tell that almost all of the athletes have been running on their own this summer,” Holmes said. “So as a team, and individually, the kids appear poised to have another strong season,” said Holmes, who is in his ninth year.
Led by Allen and King, the Trojan boys placed sixth last fall at the state meet in Wamego. Bret Mueller, the third Trojan to cross the finish line at state and a two-time all-league runner, appears to be the candidate to step into the lead role this year as a senior.
“Bret’s dedication should continue to pay dividends, and he will likely have a good improvement on his times from the year before, which has been his pattern in each of his previous three years,” Holmes said.
Josh Richert was the fourth Trojan to finish at state last fall.
“He has had his best summer of training, which should translate into an even more competitive junior season for him,” Holmes said.
Three other state runners are returning as well: junior Daniel Gray and sophomores Avery Franz and Clay Ethridge.
“(Gray) should show real improvement as the season goes on, but has had the challenge of a broken bone at the end of May and was only cleared to run recently,” Holmes said.
As for Franz and Etheridge, Holmes said, “Quite often one of the biggest improvements from one year to the next is between the first and second years of running, so these guys hopefully will follow that pattern.”
Rounding out the boys’ roster are junior Tyler Funk, in his second year of cross country, and first-year runners Jordan Bezdek, a junior, J.D. Schmidt, a sophomore, and Dylan Hill, a freshman.
“Though they are new to our school, Jordan and J.D. have run cross-country or track previously at other schools, and Dylan was successful in junior high track,” Holmes said.
With five girls on the roster this fall, the Trojans qualify to compete as a team—the first time since 2008.
“It will be tough to compete as a team with the minimum of five runners,” Holmes said. “But the girls should be competitive with some other teams, and the potential for individual success is obvious from the desire and ability of the girls.”
Leading HHS are returning letter-winners Samantha Ens, a senior, and Erin Wiebe, a sophomore. Holmes welcomes three newcomers: senior Amy Bartel and freshmen Karyn Leihy and Emily Sechrist.
“Both the experienced and new runners should improve throughout the season as they apply themselves to their conditioning,” Holmes said.
Sterling is the defending boys’ champion in the Central Kansas League, and Pratt won the girls’ title. Holmes did not speculate how his teams may fare in the CKL this fall, but he did describe what it will take to be successful in the sport.
“Certainly, one key—as always—is how determined each runner is to push themselves in practice and in meets to go beyond what they think at first they can do,” he said.
“Additionally, being mentally tough helps runners as they learn to persevere. This group looks to continue the tradition of giving your best and being young people of outstanding character that represent themselves and the school well.
“It should be a great year.”
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.
The closest meets for Trojan fans will be the Peabody-Burns Invitational at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 15 and the Berean Invitational at 4 p.m. Sept. 29 at Harvey County East Park.
This year, the Kansas State High School Activities Association is splitting the location for the state meet Oct. 29. Classes 1A, 2A and 4A will return to Wamego; the Trojans and the rest of 3A will join 5A and 6A at Rim Rock Farm near Lawrence.