BLHS boys cross country packed with juniors; girls seek to reload
A cluster of juniors leads the Basehor-Linwood boys cross country team this week as the first meet of the season inches closer.
The names are somewhat familiar to Bobcat fans familiar with the team. They make up a strong nucleus of runners: Ryan Lawless, Rob Peterson, Evan Pheno and Dakota Hesse are the top junior returners.
Tyler Henley, who was an all-league runner last season, missed summer workouts because of a stress fracture in his foot, hopes to join them soon.
In addition, sophomore Michael Torrez has run well in preseason practices.
As the runners log miles, Coach Jeff Venema watches them pass. He is anxious to see which of them will separate from the pack this season and progress.
If enough perform well, who knows what this team can accomplish?
"I think this could be one of the better Bobcat teams we have had in a long time," Venema said. "We were a better team last year, but we have more depth than last year. We return a lot of kids. We have new talent that we are excited about."
He is intrigued by the upside in this year's team.
"It is at a point where a lot of kids have potential but haven't done it yet," he said. "We want to see what happens when they are in better shape."
Venema also is evaluating a new group of varsity girls this season, and it's time for a new generation of runners to perform on varsity, he said.
"Well, we were the benefactors of some girls that really did a lot of great things for us," he said. "We won a league title. They took us from little to big and were trailblazers in Basehor cross country. They are gone now."
Among that group were Emily Lackner and Caren Chellgren.
"Those two were multiyear all-league runners and very talented and leaders," Venema said. "We will miss them. It is the next generation. It is their turn, time to see what they have got."
Some of this year's runners have been winning medals in junior varsity meets.
"It is their turn now," Venema said. "The challenge is out to see what their legacy will be."
Venema expects to build this team around Ashtyon Farris, Sydney Stallbaumer, Kayla Peterson and Megan Rehm. All are runners who earned medals last season.
"That is the extent of our letter winners," he said. "We have lots of room. We have done well. These girls aren't bad runners, but they haven't been able to run with those girls. I don't know what it is going to look like. I have ideas, but a lot of uncertainty."
One new runner is Casey Mahoney, a junior, who has run well in practices early this season.
While there are themes of potential, stepping up and replacing past runners permeating this team, the goals are simple.
The runners want to be running their best times when the Kaw Valley League meet takes place in October and the Class 4A Regional race occurs a week later.
While the team's goals are always to finish the season strong, there is also urgency about the first meet this season. Basehor-Linwood will play host to its first regular season cross country meet today at Wyandotte County Park.