New commitment for BLHS cross country
The 2003 Basehor-Linwood High School cross country team will open the season Thursday, Sept. 4 with a roster seven times as large as it finished with in 2002.
But instead of that number being too large and creating a nightmare for BLHS coach Jeff Venema, it's actually become a coach's dream.
"We have a lot of kids who are just putting their toes in, and who knows where they'll be in two weeks," Venema said. "But that's where we're at. We're a growing program and we're delighted to have this many kids out."
The main reason the first-year cross country coach is so encouraged by the 35 athletes on his squad is because they will allow the Bobcats to compete as a team.
For the first time in nearly 10 years, the Bobcats will field full boys and girls teams, as well as full teams in both junior varsity groups.
"We're real excited to be competing as a team, and that's the way it should be," Venema said. "We're too big of a school to not have that."
So for the first time they will.
When Venema was hired in May to fill the vacant coaching opening, the first thing he did was hit the recruiting trail. He talked to various athletes around the school about what running cross country could do for them and encouraged them to give it a shot.
Some joined because they wanted to get in shape for another sport, which they will play later in the year. Others joined because they wanted to belong to a team or become healthier. And even more joined because they wanted to rehab an injury they suffered so they could be ready for their other sports. But no matter why they joined was, they were greeted with open arms.
"I think those are all good reasons to join cross country," Venema said. "That's what a good cross country program should be about -- a lot of things to a lot of people."
So when this group of newcomers hits the trail Thursday at Tonganoxie, they will do so as an inexperienced group looking for improvement.
The team has three seniors, but none of the three have run cross country before. Mindy Picket is the lone senior girl, and Brett Dowdall and Jon Shumaker represent the seniors on the boys side.
After that the team is made up of juniors or younger, with only one athlete standing out as a returning contributor.
Junior Lauren Forshee, a letter winner in 2002, returns as the team's leader. Venema said her experience and attitude have both been extremely helpful in the early going.
"Lauren's a bona fide leader and she's done a nice job of helping me out," Venema said. "She's really taken on a leadership role."
With limited leadership and experience, the Bobcats aren't expecting to be world-beaters in 2003. But they are expecting to set the foundation for a program that should grow in the coming years.
"We're anxious to get going. We're curious to see how well we'll do," Venema said.
Thursday's meet will begin at 4 p.m.