We have three girls returning, who ran at state last year. All three may be running for Valley. Captain Jessica Cook seems ready. Teammate Dominique Kudasik is fresh from cross country camp and looks like she is ready for competition. Sophomore Traci Hoffman has transferred to Valley for academic reasons and also ready to go. Also for Valley, Senior Katie Daniel looks stronger than she has ever looked. If Valley rounds out a team with another girl, they may be a genuine team contender.
We have three runners this year. First-year runners Blake Moore and Tomi Tanaka look strong and freshman Ryon Ashley, who ran two years in junior high, looks pretty fast.
Senior Iris Heckman is back along with a new senior to our sport Lindsey Nordin. Tessa Wilson, who ran for South Bend last year, will have to run as a JV runner for a year, but looks stronger and faster than ever.
The Raymond boys may be the biggest improvement over the off season. Led by senior Aaron deMontigney, the Raymond boys are ready to jump in. Ben Meade is fit and fast. Freshman Jachin Heckman may be new, but he is fast. Jeffrey Davis is back and first year runner Tysen Stephens round out a Boy's team that is going to catch some teams off guard.
South Bend's numbers are down this year, but if a school is only going to have one boy and one girl, South Bend has some pretty good talent. Jose Bucio made a surge at the end of the season last year and has his sights on picking up where he left off. Sophomore Savannah Burbank is running stronger with more confidence.
Our biggest weaknesses are not our runners; it is the fates of the sport. First off is a problem of numbers. Valley's girls and boys are a couple runners short of being full-scoring teams. While runners can advance as individuals, it is a plus to compete as a team. South Bend's numbers are down after having a full girls' team last year and promising boy's team.
The other problem that we may face is simply one of competition. A number of schools that were in the "A" classification have dropped into the "B" classification. This will drop more runners and competition into the district from larger programs. My runners will be ready for them, but the greater numbers in the pool makes the chances more difficult.
I am really fortunate to have a cadre of gifted leadership. Jessica Cook is our captain with two appearances at State. Dominique Kudasik is a senior who has run for me since seventh grade. She can help those young runners adjusting through the junior high to high school transition. She made it to state last year. Aaron deMontigney has been around my program for a long time. He will take the boys through the warm-ups and help them get ready while the girl's are finishing. His older sister was a former captain and he has witnessed leadership. All of the team members are leaders and encouragers. Watch this squad for any length of time and you will see encouragement and fives every time these kids pass each other. The chemistry of this group really is inspiring.
Certainly everyone wants to improve every week. Goals are hard to pin down. Sure there are conversations about state and team dreams, but for now it is simply about improvement. If we can be our best, the competition will take care of the rest. We met as a team for a couple of days and decided on four core values that will define us as a program: Dedication, Encouragement, Commitment, and Family.
A Brief Look at Your League's Competitors:
The League and District will be exceptionally tough. The teams to beat will be perennial favorites Northwest Christian, White Pass and Ocosta. But the boys of Ilwaco are light and fast and qualified a young team for State in the "A" class. Rainier is tough as are Toledo, Onalaska and Tacoma Baptist. There are individuals from Mossyrock, Adna and North Beach who will be in the hunt. We have the toughest district in the state and every team has a runner who can come out of nowhere and throw off other great runners. I know there are teams I don't see coming because in small schools the talent of schools can change drastically from year-to-year. It really is nerve-wracking fun. We will know a lot more in two weeks after we have run a couple of meets.