Offseason workouts should pay off
Tonganoxie High coach Phil Williams hopes extra work in the summer will benefit his cross country team this fall.
Every year in early July, Williams hands out training schedules to his runners so they can be prepared when practice begins in August.
"I always have a few who worked really hard and others who don't really discipline themselves," Williams said. "Several girls really committed themselves to getting better.
"I think on both sides we had a lot of kids get a lot stronger over the summer."
This summer, Williams had more dedication overall from his runners than in some years past.
And this fall, on the girls side, that off-season training could make this season a special one for the girls team.
The Chieftains return their full squad as THS had no seniors on last year's team that finished third in the Kaw Valley League meet last October.
Sophomore Christy Weller leads this year's Chieftains. Weller, as a freshman, was the team's top runner throughout the season and was Tonganoxie's lone state qualifier. Weller injured her knee during a physical education class the week before the state meet last season.
She started the state meet in Wamego, but couldn't finish because of the injury.
If Weller makes a return visit to Wamego, she might not be alone.
This year, the Chieftains have three seniors -- Rachel Bouza, Megan Holton and Kelley Stauch. Juniors Jennifer Wagner and Kezia Huseman also return for Tonganoxie, which Williams said could have one of its best girls teams in school history this fall.
"I think the girls have the potential," Williams said.
The key, Williams said, is depth. The Chieftains have substantially more of it this year compared to previous seasons.
That depth might push the squad to a league title, but the Chieftains will have to contend with defending champ Mill Valley.
Boys cross country
Tonganoxie had seven runners finish in the top 14 at last year's KVL meet.
Last spring, four of those runners graduated, leaving Tonganoxie with a young squad this fall. Gone are Andy Kolman, Levi Huseman, Matt Chenoweth and Brett Garrett. Adam Hamby also ran last season as a senior.
Don't count out this year's Chieftains just yet.
The defending KVL champions still have some runners left from that squad.
As for being young, last year's THS junior varsity team also won its league meet, sweeping the top five places in the race.
"The boys could be close to as good, maybe even better than last year," Williams said. "I don't know."
Colt Coffin and Garrett Kelly are Tonganoxie's returning seniors with Coffin having varsity experience.
Williams noted that Justin Smith "has improved a lot," while freshmen David Powell and Matt Brock have been running well also.
On the boys side, Williams expects Mill Valley and Bonner Springs to be the top teams, but the league, he said, should have some parity.
"Sometimes a team comes along and surprises everybody," Williams said.
Although the Chieftains are the defending league champs, the squad could be that surprise team this season.