Numbers favor THS harriers
Home, sweet, slightly renovated, home.
The Tonganoxie High cross country team returns this week to its course on the school district's 80 acres southeast of Pleasant and Washington streets.
Last year, the team held its home meets at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds, where it had competed for years before events were moved to the district's acreage.
Last year, groundwork commenced on a new middle school on the property, so coach Phil Williams moved the meets to the fairgrounds.
This year, with the middle school nearly complete, the land again will be home to Chieftain cross country.
"We'll use a lot of the main course," Williams said. "There's a new path on the east side of the building.
"I think it will be pretty good. There are places that are bare, not much grass on it, but the part that had grass before is in pretty good shape."
So, it appears, should be both the THS boys and girls cross country teams.
With a record 38 runners out this season -- the school's largest during Williams' more than 30 years coaching at the school -- enthusiasm is high for the Chieftain harriers.
"I'm excited about the year," Williams said. "I think we could be about where we were last year."
Last season, Tonganoxie qualified full teams for state in the same year for the first time since 1991.
On the boys side, the squad graduated just two runners in Colt Coffin and Garrett Kelly.
The girls had just two runners graduate also. Leading the boys and girls team this year are sophomore Matt Brock and junior Christy Weller. Brock finished fifth at regionals and 43rd at state last season, while Weller came in fourth at regionals, followed closely by Jennifer Wagner, who finished ninth at regionals. Weller placed 36th and Wagner 85th at state. Wagner is one of three seniors on this year's girls team. Kezia Huseman and Emily Hughes are the other two seniors.
The boys team will have six seniors leading the squad, including a top newcomer of their own in Chris Price. A transfer from Cheney, Price finished 29th in Class 3A last season as a junior. Other seniors include Michael Shaw, John Davis, Chris Downs, Kazy Fukuyasu and Justin Smith.
Other returning runners to watch on the boys side include junior Colin Perkins, who placed 47th at state in 4A last year, and sophomore David Powell, who finished 76th at state in 2005.
With so many runners returning from last season's dual state teams, the squad should seem a favorite to return to state as full boys and girls teams.
But the Williams camp hasn't discussed that -- yet.
"We haven't talked too much about end of season goals yet," Williams said. "We've just been taking it day to day.
"Of course, one goal would be to return to state."
Tonganoxie will open the season at 4 p.m. Thursday at home with a quadrangular.