Large roster could pay off for MVHS cross-country
Coach thinks 14 boys and 10 girls could give other teams a run for their money
Mill Valley High School's cross country coach, Mark Chipman, has never had this many boys on any of his cross country teams and he's loving it.
Chipman is in his 28th season of coaching cross country his second at Mill Valley and he is extremely excited about the large number that shows up on his roster. With 14 boys and 10 girls on the squad, Chipman said he was certain that MVHS cross country could be competitive this year.
Six of the top seven from last year are returning on the boys side, and Chipman said he's hoping the boys can improve at least one more place. Last season, the boys team finished fourth at the Regional tournament and missed going to state by one place.
"We've got a lot of talent returning and we're looking to improve on what we did last year," Chipman said. "We want to get to state this year."
Senior Griffin Lee leads the team as its top returning runner. Last season, as an individual, Lee finished third at state and so far this season, Chipman said Lee has looked every bit as good as he did last year.
"He's back for us this year and he's picking up right where he left off," Chipman said.
At the team's first meet at St. Thomas Aquinas, Lee finished seventh. The following weekend at Wamego, he finished third, and his times are improving with every meet.
Also improving with every meet is Jay Matlack. Matlack finished 31st at Wamego with a personal best time of 18:17. Along with Matlack and Lee, seniors Greg Gardner, Adam Dworak, Aupuro Johnson and sophomore Aiden Polhemus should provide the Jaguars with a formidable attack.
The girls, who finished seventh at state a season ago, do not have quite the same luxury as the boys squad. The top three girls from last year's team all graduated and this year Chipman enters with a lower number and only one senior. He said, however, that he expects the girls sophomore class to be very strong.
"I'd like to have a few more girls, but we've got seven for varsity and then a few others to give us some depth," Chipman said.
Like the girls squad, the boys squad also has a solid group of sophomores, and Chipman said he loves the fact that these younger runners will be with him for the next three years.
"It's real encouraging," Chipman said. "I had hoped to have a big freshmen turnout, too, but it wasn't that large. We do have five or six freshmen out for the team and I think they'll contribute a little bit this season."
Senior Aubrey Hale leads the MVHS girls team into the season with the help of sophomores Hillary Johnson, Marie Stiens, Jackque Jenkins, Holly Gessley and Laraine Kyle. Johnson and Hale both medaled at the Wamego meet, as they finished 19th and 32nd respectively. The girls team took ninth out of 15 teams while the boys team finished 13th in a field of 22.
So far this season, Chipman said he has been impressed by his seniors' ability to step up and lead the team.
"Our seniors are really doing a great job," Chipman said. "They've gotten the team together and had them ready to compete every time. Both teams had some success last year and they know if they run hard they can have more success this year."