Youthful team seeks to continue THS harrier tradition
Spectators at Tonganoxie cross country meets who aren't familiar with this year's squad might be asking "What happened to so-and-so?"
Actually, graduation happened to three of last year's runners -- Kyle Norris, Tony Aligo and Tommy Powell. The seniors were Tonganoxie's top-three finishers at last year's state meet in Wamego. Norris was fifth, Aligo 10th and Powell 28th.
This season, the Chieftains return four state qualifiers from a year ago, but Corey Brest was the highest placer at 51st.
"I think our boys are going to be competitive," said coach Phil Williams, who enters his 28th year at THS. "We won't be third in the state, I don't think."
During the season, that might not be true, but as Baldwin proved last year, its possible to regroup.
Former Bulldogs Matt Noonan and Eric Brown, who began their collegiate careers at Missouri and Kansas respectively last season, led Baldwin to a state title the year before.
Last year, Tonganoxie appeared to be the frontrunner for a state title, with Norris and Aligo leading the way. All of Baldwin's runners finished behind the Tonganoxie duo, but the Bulldogs depth overcame the rest of the field. The Chieftains took third and Baldwin claimed its fourth consecutive state title.
Ben Brest and Tyler Davidson are the Chieftains' lone seniors this season, while juniors Matt Chenoweth and Andy Kolman join Corey Brest as returning state qualifiers. Junior Levi Huseman opted not to return for to the cross country courses this season. Instead, he has joined the soccer team.
During the team's Red/White meet Friday, Kolman led all boys runners with a time of 18 minutes, 57 seconds for the red squad. Corey Brest led the white team with a 20:06 time.
"Andy Kolman really worked hard over the summer," Williams said. "He went to the KU camp."
Williams expects Mill Valley to be the top team in the Kaw Valley League with his Chieftains finishing second.
"They're going to be tough to beat," Williams said.
The Jaguars return much of its team. Led by senior Jay Matlack, who finished seventh at state last year, the Jags snapped Tonganoxie's six-year KVL win streak.
The season begins Thursday with a home quadrangular.
Girls Cross Country
Laura Korb has been a fixture for the Tonganoxie cross country team. A senior last season, Korb reached the state meet all four years of her prep career.
Now, the Chieftains must field a team with no state experience.
Heather Helm also ran at last year's meet, but she chose not to run this season.
That leaves the girls team with a small squad this fall -- only two runners in each class came out.
But, with seasoned seniors Amanda Chenoweth and Elizabeth Smith, along with rising sophomores Megan Holton and Kelley Stauch and freshman Kezia Huseman, the Chieftains could assemble a solid five-runner lineup for this season's campaign.
Holton won the red/white scrimmage with a 16:12 time, while Smith was close behind at 16:15. Stauch finished in 16:22, while Huseman (17:12), Chenoweth (21:58) and Kayla Hammons (21:59) also competed.
Williams said he's expects the girls squad to finish in the fourth-place range in the KVL this season.