Owl harriers boast experienced boys
The Marshall cross country team will have a few new faces this season, but its fortunes rest on the veterans.
Practice started later that usual this year, but that's not entirely a bad thing for a program that is still hoping to build its numbers.
"We typically pick up some kids the first day of school," noted MHS head coach Jim Papreck. "This way it gives us enough time for everybody to have enough practices."
The Owls have 19 athletes on the roster, six more than a year ago, but nine are novices. Three of them are seniors, all on the boys' squad.
"There's leadership," Papreck said. "A few of those returning realize 'I'm in 12th grade now, I'm in 11th grade now, and I really want to make the most of this.' And the newcomers are trying to run with them."
Marshall's boys' group should be especially strong. The top three runners from a year ago -- junior Gavin Mills and seniors Edgar Espinoza and Drew Arends -- are back, along with a 2017 starter in senior Damon Farina. Mills and Espinoza are three-time all-NCMC performers, Mills qualifying for state last year and Espinoza a two-time state entry.
"He takes this 100 percent seriously, both for himself and his teammates," Papreck said about Mills' commitment. "Never does he want to slack off, or have bad or sloppy form."
Espinoza improved to 42nd at the state meet last year, closing in on medal contention. He's missed some time with injuries, but "if healthy he should make some great strides."
Arends has steadily improved and Farina has shown potential. Sophomore Michael Hechavarria is new to the circuit, but medaled a couple of times running middle distances during the spring track season.
"I think the longer distances will fit his talent," Papreck said.
Sophomore Will Van Vactor improved his time during the course of the previous season and should contribute. There's going to be competition for the final spots in the seven-man line-up. Sophomore Kayden Hayes "has been there from Day One giving everything he has," according to Papreck, and freshman Matthew Brandkamp "shows great heart."
The ranks of the Lady Owls are thin, but two of their top runners are back. Sophomore A-Quila Thomas had the team's fastest time last year, medaling at the Boonville meet, and junior Elizabeth Hurst has been steady and reliable. Sophomore Kenya Maqueda and Hayleigh McKinney should benefit from a year of experience.
They'll be joined by two new girls, freshmen Drew Wilson and Aareyanna Larimore. Development is the key for this season.
"We're pretty much at stage one," Papreck conceded. "They've got to build up the aerobic base and at the same time learn the running mechanics and race pace."
While Marshall waits for the girls to come along, the boys may have the deepest team the program has seen since back-to-back fourth-place showings in the 2003-04 MSHSAA Class 3 Championships.
Contact Chris Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org