Two state qualifiers to lead HHS

These five letter-winners will set the pace for the cross-country team at Hillsboro: (from left) Abby Driggers, Tucker Moss, Avery Unruh, Jonathan Hinerman and Caleb Rempel.Hillsboro first-year coach Robert Haude welcomes two returning state qualifiers on a roster of seven runners. Three of the remaining five also are letter-winners.

“For the majority of our high school kids, they’ve already experienced a season,” Haude said. “So they know what to expect—and knowing that, they can perform at a higher level. And they’ve had success.

“I look forward to this year attaining more than they did last year. That varies for everybody, and it may not happen until late in the season.”

A year of cross-country competition is more than Haude himself has experience so far, but he’s no stranger to running and training.

“Since I got out of college, I’ve been running—and I enjoy that,” he said. “I have never run competitively (in college), but I’ve competed in triathlons, which have a 5-k at the end.”

Heading the roster is senior Jonathan Hiner­man, who placed 29th out of 100 runners at the Class 2A state race in Wamego last season witha time of 18 minutes, 24 seconds.

“He went to state last year and ran well,” Haude said. “He’s looking forward to this year and I can really sense that he wants it to be a very special season for him. He has the potential to make it a year to remember.”

Abby Driggers returns after having an outstanding freshman year, qualifying for state in the first season that girls were required to run a 5-k route like the boys. Driggers placed 63rd among 100 qualifiers at Wamego with a time of 24:01.

“She qualified for state last year at the league meet, which is a great accomplishment for her,” Haude said. “With ending the season like that, she’s had a great start to the new season and I look for her to have another special year.”

Haude looks to both runners to provide more than simply good race times.

“I see Jon and Abby as leaders, too,” he said. “Every­­body has worked hard so far.”

With five boys on the roster, the Trojans could compete for a team score this year. Three sophomores join Hinerman as letter-winners: Avery Unruh, Tucker Moss and Caleb Rempel. Sopho­more Orin Blecha is new to the program.

“Avery, Tucker and Caleb all had a pretty good season, looking back at their meet times,” Haude said. “They improved throughout the season.

“Avery kind of battled some injury stuff, but all three of those guys have shown confidence at the beginning of the season and are running really well. I’m looking for a good season from them.”

Joining Driggers on the girls’ side is freshman Millie Sechrist, who competed in the middle school division a year ago.

The new Trojan coach said he challenged his athletes to establish a running base over the summer.

“A lot of them have,” he said. “We’ve kind of continued to build on that, but also incorporating some speed work and some more high-intensity work instead of high volume.”

With seven runners on his middle-school team, Haude hopes for bigger rosters in the coming years.

“We’re very individualized because we don’t have the numbers we would like, but running is very much a mental sport,” he said. “The more you can come together as a group and support each other, challenge each other, it pulls along their progress as a runner and as a team.

“It will make it more enjoyable for them and a fun experience.”

The Trojans open their season Sept. 1 when they run in the Smoky Valley Invitational at Linds­borg.

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