Panther cross country coach Cliff Boos, in his 18th season, said top-three finishes, which would mean a team trophy, are possible for both squads. He’s won three girls’ state titles in his career and his boys’ teams have come close a few times, he said.
“The last couple years we’ve been down a little bit,” Boos said Thursday. “We had lots of illnesses and injuries for the girls and a big graduation for the boys. We’re hoping to rebuild our teams and consistently do well.”
He was reluctant to pinpoint how well the teams will do, but said there is reason for optimism.
“We try to improve every day,” Boos said. “You always think you’re going to do well.”
The girls’ squad has two seniors, Carly Klein and Sierra Morrow, two juniors, Anne Condie and Bailey Sanders, two sophomores, Kadeja Franklin and Chelsea Lawala, and three freshmen, Kiley Cannon, Teo Faulkner and Monse Morale.
Sanders claimed 16th at the conference meet last year and was 25th at state. She opens the season as the presumptive lead runner, Boos said.
Morrow was a key member of the 2010 state champion team as a freshman, but has battled ankle problems. She appears to be in good health this year, Boos said.
“She’s an outstanding runner,” he said.
The girls said they know they have the ability to compete for a state title. It’s a matter of things falling into place, the seniors said.
“We can definitely get at least the top three at state,” Morrow said. “We have so many good runners.”
“We have the people this year,” Klein said. “We have options.”
The boys’ team includes four seniors, Matt Abraham, Zander Andreasen, Grant Nickles and Quin Wetzel, two juniors, Michael Steiner and Ben Wetzel, three sophomores, Alex Aguirre, Robert Burke and Tyson Wages, and two freshmen, John Stutzman and Matthew Waite.
Andreasen finished 16th at the conference meet and 20th at state last fall. The boys said they are planning for a strong season.
“We have a good chance at placing at state,” Abraham said. “We’re in good shape this year. You can tell everyone worked at being in shape this summer.”
Quin Wetzel said a trophy at state is “definitely a goal.”
The fact that there are 11 members on the team will serve to push runners to work harder, the seniors agreed. In the past, there were seven or eight runners, and the competition wasn’t as fierce.
Nickles said while there is reason for optimism, he knows one thing: “We have a lot of work to do yet,” he said.
The cross country squads opened the season in Cody on Friday. Results were unavailable for this edition due to an early deadline.
Boos said it’s up to the athletes to work hard enough to improve and get faster and to do so at a pace that is best for them. He works with them, monitoring their runs, as does assistant coach Ashley Hildebrand.
“I think getting better as a runner certainly involves team competition and conditioning,” he said. “But, I really feel conditioning at a rate one can handle safely is most important, as then you can generally see gradual improvement.
“Competition within your particular team can often not be too helpful as you may not have team members up to your skill level to really be able to push you,” Boos said. “We have several runners who lead in various ways, Matt Abraham and Zander Andreasen in particular.”
Boos said Star Valley, Jackson and Cody finished in the top three at state last year in both the boys and girls competition, and will be worth watching again this season.
“They have had consistently good teams,” he said.
But Powell has had a long tradition of strong teams, and the 2013 editions could be a contender as well. Health, and the desire of the runners to improve, will determine if state trophies are in the Panthers’ future.