Based on numbers, experience and a strong commitment to its summer training program, the Douglas High cross country team has good reason for entering this season with a high level of optimism.
For starters, coaches Jay Frey and Marc Walling were enthused Saturday morning when they greeted an opening-day turnout of 50 runners.
“It’s going to be a good season for both the boys and girls,” Frey said. “We’ve got 50 kids and 14 varsity spots, so the competition for both teams is going to be pretty tough.”
Nearly half of those 50 runners are returning veterans, so the Tigers have more than an ample supply of experience coming into their season opening Douglas Class Races on Aug. 30 at Lampe Park.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Walling added. “The more competition you have during practice and at the races, the more improvement you’re going to see.”
The boys return six of their top seven runners and have 17 back overall from a team that placed second last year at the Division I Northern Regional meet and fifth at the state championships.
This is a balanced team, as can be seen by the spread of 41 seconds that separated its five scoring runners at the 2012 state meet. Expect to see more of the same this season.
“I wouldn’t be able to tell you who our No. 1 is; I think we’re going to have different kids leading us throughout the season,” Frey said.
For example, Lane Smith, Brandon Pankey and Cole Peck cracked the top 20 and sophomore Cole Peck finished 26th to lead Douglas at last year’s regional meet. A week later at state, Pankey, Smith and junior Jeff Williams were the top three at state. Pankey is a two-time state meet qualifier who placed ninth as a sophomore at the 2011 regional.
The girls, meanwhile, hope for a return to 2011 when they earned runner-up team honors at the state meet. The Tigers didn’t qualify for state in 2012 after their seventh-place regional finish.
Lindsey Adams, who reigned as the regional and state individual champion as a freshman in 2011, is back after playing soccer last fall (she was an all-league midfielder). She is coming off a big sophomore season on the track this past spring when she won the regional 1,600 meters (5:16.5) and ran an impressive 2:19.6 for 800 meters.
There is going to be competition for the team’s No. 1 position, though, as fellow junior Moriah Munyan has moved in with some strong credentials from Sultana High School (Hesperia, Calif.). Munyan placed 32nd last November at the CIF Southern Section Division II Championships. This spring, Munyan ran her season-best time of 11:23.75 for 3,200 meters to win the Mojave River League title.
Providing team depth, the top two Tigers from last year are back: Maria Munoz, who finished 14th at the regional meet, and Rebecca Corbett, who finished 20th.
All of that experience appears to have brought out heightened commitment from the runners, according to Frey and Walling, who will also have help this season from assistant coach Jocelyn Fisher.
“A big highlight for us was the summer turnout,” Frey said. “The kids came out three days a week, and the last five to six weeks, we were averaging 30 kids each time.”
“We had 28 kids go 10 miles or more, which is incredible,” Walling added.
The primary objective is still to peak at the end of the season when the regional and state meets are held at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno. The Douglas boys and girls teams are both aiming to qualify for state.
“They’ve made a huge amount of progress,” Frey said. “And the best part is, they’re having fun with it.”