BLHS cross country looking for bigger, better things
Two years ago, before Jeff Venema took over as cross-country coach at Basehor-Linwood High School, the Bobcats could field only five runners for a meet and most of the time couldn't register a team score at their events.
Now, two years later, Venema not only has runners who've medaled at district meets, but he has a runner who has placed at state and a core of freshmen and sophomore runners whose promise signals great things for the future of the program.
"Two years ago, we had a total
of five kids," Venema said in an interview Tuesday night. "My big thing was 'We need to field a team!' At meets you're supposed to take seven runners and then take the best five times from those seven. I recruited the dickens out of it, and now we've got some really good runners."
Venema's recruiting has gone so well in fact, that the Bobcats fielded seven varsity and seven JV runners at almost all of their meets last season.
This year, however, Venema will not be satisfied with fielding a team -- he's looking for results. Those results are most likely going to come from a group of young runners led by sophomore Megan Tush.
"Megan was the first runner in a generation at Basehor to place in the state meet," Venema said. "She's very quick and we expect great things from her."
Venema also has high hopes for sophomore Amanda Vitt.
"Amanda came on strong at the end of last season," he said. "By the end of the season she had medaled. I expect her to do well."
Venema also sees potential in freshman Emily Lackner, who is regularly pushing Megan Tush in practice.
On the other side of the course, Venema predicts a tougher year for the boys, but he is not without optimism. He is looking for leadership from senior Richard Brock and he's hoping fellow senior Jonathan Stahl can provide the Bobcats with a promising one-two punch of male runners.
"Jonathan is a four-year guy," Venema said. "He's kind of the 'greybeard' of our program."
As far as the future is concerned, Venema points with a bright eye towards freshman Sam Mustain. "He will be one of our leaders in the future of this program."
When asked specifically about goals for the coming season, Venema looked right in the neighborhood for inspiration. "Lansing is always really good,"
Venema said. "We'll just try to keep up with them as much as we can. They're in almost every meet we're in, which is both frustrating and challenging."
Still, with all the challenges, the enthusiasm for the upcoming season hasn't waned for Venema or his runners.
"We know we'll be a much improved team, but what we'd really like to do is to get a team to state. I don't know if that will happen, but that's what we're looking for. We're going to be a very young team, but that only means better things will come."
The Bobcats open the season Thursday, Sept. 2 against Lansing and Tonganoxie.