The 2011 West Virginia High School Cross Country season is just around the corner with varsity, junior varsity and middle school teams gearing up for hot, competitive meets. Though the varsity team at Tyler Consolidated lost two veteran athletes to graduation last year in Emily Wells and Ashley Pfhol, head coach Luke Reynolds is optimistic as to how his team will perform this season.
"Emily and Ashley were our anchors," he said. "They'd been with the team for several years, we could always count on them and we're certainly going to miss them, but we have 10 out for the team this year and I'm looking for them to step into their shoes. I have confidence that we're going to be seeing some good times from these kids."
Returning to the trails of the Ohio Valley for the Silver this season will be juniors Devon Thompson and Lauren Seckman; and sophomores Dylan Reynolds, Kelly Rice, and Ryan Dalrymple. Newcomers to the team are seniors Jennifer Yost and Rei Yasunaga, and freshmen, Stephanie Wright, Sean Camerlin, and Marissa Gogan.
Working on building the cross country program at Consolidated, Reynolds said he is not looking to take the state by storm, but he is confident that these athletes will step up their performances. "They've all been working hard, both at practice and on their own and I can't ask for more than that. Devon, Lauren, Dylan, Kelly and Ryan already know what the sport demands of them, and the new kids are getting the idea. We're looking forward to a competitive season."
For the first time in a few years, the Knights will be able to field a complete boys team and girls team, thereby earning team points, as well as individual points, at competitions. "That is if everybody is competing, nobody is injured or other things occur to keep us from fielding a complete team," the coach said.
The sport of cross country is generally not ran on a track, but on courses laid out on natural terrain which includes hills as well as flat ground, grass, dirt, mud, through open fields and small creeks and streams, and in woodlands. It is both an individual and team sport, with athletes scoring on an individual basis as well as earning team points.
Many athletes compete in this sport in order to 'cross train' for other athletic endeavors, which turns out to be a positive influence for both sports in the long run.
"It's a disciplined sport, and more than one athlete cross trains for another sport," the coach said. "It helps them to stay in shape and builds their endurance."
In years past, the Consolidated team has had to travel to other meets throughout their season, having no course of their own. Last year, however, Reynolds, school personnel, and other volunteers designed a home course for the team and they were able to host their first home meet. This year, the coach says the course has been improved and a home meet, "Stormin'the Castle" will be held. "We've made some improvements and the kids have been running it," he said. "And it's not a bad course if I say so myself. We've invited several teams and hope to have some home support."
In the process of rebuilding and designing their own course, Reynolds has also worked hard on building the solid future of the sport in Tyler County by adding to the middle school roster.
Twenty five middle school athletes will take to the trails around the state this year for the Knights: Aaron Warner, Adam Cooper, Alexis Chambers, Amanda Reynolds, Amber Watson, Andrew Kocher, Becky Bolin, Belle Camerlin, Cosette Bantug, Creed Eller, Eli Henthorn, Evan Shreves, Joralda Rice, Josh Frum, Juliana Miller, Kamryn Milhoan, Kaylee Hulin, Kellsi Anderson, McKenzie Bradfield(not pictured), Megan Sole, Mira Eller, PJ Wright, Vanessa Templeton, Zach Bonner, and Zach Judge.
"I'm excited to have this many kids on the middle school team," the coach said. "This certainly bodes well for the future of the sport here. We have some returning from last year, but we also have several first time runners out, and I'm anxious to watch them compete. As these kids gain experience, I think we'll see the numbers grow at the high school level."
"The next few years are going to be important."
The Silver Knight harriers will begin their competition season on Aug. 27 when they head to St. Marys to compete at the annual Autumn Classic. This start of the season meet will allow teams to set goals to build out throughout the rest of the season, and is one of the closest competitions to home the Knights will participate in this year. Both the high school and middle school teams will compete.
The Knights will host their own "Stormin' the Castle" meet on Sept. 6 at the new school course and will travel to Miineral Wells on Sept. 10 for the Chick-Fil-A meet.