Experienced runners eye breakout season
The nucleus of the Basehor-Linwood cross country program was defined during preseason trials last Thursday as runners competed for spots on varsity for the first meet of the season.
The intrasquad meet played out with boys’ and girls’ runners turing in fast times, while balancing personal success with being humble.
“It was a nerve-wracking time trial. Those kids were getting after it,” BLHS coach Jeff Venema said. “It is a deal where you make it and hide your happiness because you have a kid coming in after you who didn’t make it and is distraught. They did a good job of taking care of each other in the process.”
While managing the emotions of time trials can be tricky, Venema said he liked the competitive nature of this group of runners. The competition signifies the program has a lot of runners capable of racing for the varsity team.
The boys’ squad has a talented group of seven seniors who have been part of the program for four years.
“We have a core group of senior boys that have been around a long time,” Venema said. “They are highly motivated coming into their senior seasons. I feel good about the summer and the work they put in, and the leadership they are putting in for the team.”
In addition to the seniors, Jonathan Oliva is running well in preseason practice.
“I don’t think he ever realized how good he can be, but it is starting to click in that he is pretty special,” Venema said. “He won our time trials. That has to be a boost to do that.”
Freshman Mark Vitt also has shown promise.
“He is the younger brother of two of our finer athletes that we have had on the team,” Venema said. “Alex and Amanda were both four-time letter winners. In the time trials, he earned a varsity spot as a freshman. I was happy for him that he was able to do that. He is a great kid from a great family. We are delighted he has taken on the tradition of the Vitts.”
Venema also has a talented girls squad. While Kayla Peterson, a program building block the last four years, graduated, 2009 state qualifier Hannah Tush returns.
“Hannah Tush is one of the finest runners in the state of Kansas,” Venema said of the junior. “She has worked hard and gotten better. She works hard to be great. She made it to state and I think that she is ready to take her place amongst the leaders in the state. It will happen because she worked so hard to get there.”
In terms of leadership, Shelby and Sheridan Miles have stood out.
“The twin seniors spent a lot of time training this summer and have done a superior job of bringing kids along with them,” Venema said.
Other runners competing this week include Sydney Weible, Ally Laney and Sarah Rehm.
In addition to being talented runners, Venema is pleased with the type of people he gets to coach this season.
“We had a parents meeting, and I told them ‘you love your kids, but I love them almost as much as you do,’” he said. “They are great kids and fun to be around. They understand how important cross country is to me.”
Venema said he is eager to see how the team performs when the season begins at 4 p.m. today at Wyandotte County Park.
While he would like the team to win the first meet, the focus is on long-term success. The main goal is qualifying for state as a team. The Bobcats have had eight individuals run at state, and Venema said he is eager to take a full squad this season.
As a result, the team’s focus is on improving for the Class 4A regional meet and placing in the top three of the Kaw Valley League.