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HILLSBORO TROJANS: Cross country

Strong JV showing in 2007 gives team reason to be optimistic

Sports writer

Losing a pair of runners like standouts Cody McMillen and Johnny Christian would have just about any cross country coach crying.

However, don’t count Hillsboro High School coach Stuart Holmes as one.

As he enters his fifth year, Holmes isn’t groaning about the hand he’s been dealt.

In fact from the way he’s sounding it doesn’t look the Trojans will miss a beat, and the reason for his optimism is simple.

Seven of his top nine boys’ runners from a year ago are back, while the girls return three letterwinners.

“I am looking forward to another great season,” Holmes said. “The group of athletes we have this year seems to be especially enthusiastic about running and being part of the team.

“We hope to channel the enthusiasm and good team chemistry into positive experiences both at practice as well as at meets.”

After the strenuous training much of the team went through in the offseason, it certainly cannot hurt.

“Every year I continue to be impressed with the self discipline of most of our runners as they make running a part of their daily routine all summer,” Holmes said. “As a result, many have run between 150-350 miles this summer, and start the season with a good base for training.

There shouldn’t be much question about the drive for the boys’ team.

However, several of this year’s seniors mainly ran on what proved to be one of the strongest junior varsity squads in the area.

Much of Holmes’ success is riding on how well several of those runners can move up and be able to contribute to the varsity level.

Cody Blackketter started the season last year as a junior, competing in the JV meets.

Blackketter progressed with every meet and by the end of the season, he was running for the varsity. He’ll be one of the runners Holmes will be expecting big things from this year.

Senior Nic Mueller earned a medal last year, finishing seventh at the MCAA meet. As a standout wrestler, he’ has as much drive and determination as anybody.

Cody McMillen’s younger brother, Brandon, who progressed as the junior varsity season went on, will help lead the team as well.

David Ratzlaff and Matthew Klenda help round out the senior class as well as newcomer Robbie McClelland.

The junior class helped make last year’s JV squad a good one with Nathan Vogel and Johnny Christian’s brother, Michael. Jonathan King is ready to step in and vie for varsity competition as well.

Scott Brandt could be another one to keep an eye, as well, as the first-year junior helps give the upperclassmen some depth.

One concern could be depth the junior varsity class.

Not one sophomore is listed on the roster and only a trio of freshmen are participating, possibly an ominous sign for the future.

There is some with Nicholas Ediger, Bret Mueller, and Zach Carey about to lay the foundation.

“The boys have qualified for state as a team in seven of the last eight years, and I know one of their goals is to qualify again and finish the season by running well at state,” Holmes said.

The Lady Trojans aren’t deep with only six runners listed, but could make some noise as well.

The senior trio of Clara Ens, Jessica Elliot, and Heidi Schroeder will be the ones Holmes is looking to for both production and leadership.

Schroeder earned a medal a year ago at the league meet with a ninth-place finish and Elliot’s 4K time of eighteen minutes, six seconds is a school record.

However, the underclassmen are untested.

Sophomore Taylor Nikkel is in her first year and Breanna Blackketter and Samantha Ens are both freshmen.

The Trojans, as usual, have a stiff schedule awaiting them as the season started Saturday at the J.K. Gold Classic at Augusta’s Raft Golf Course.

Hillsboro then makes it first trip to the site of the state meet at Wamego before competing against all the state’s larger classes in Wichita.

Foes like Sterling and Southeast of Saline have traditionally fielded strong teams to help provide the Trojans with a tune-up.

“We have a neat group of young people and it should be a great season of training and racing,” said Holmes.

Last modified Sept. 10, 2008

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