Big hits, kicks and jumps
Experience and drive will be the key factors that help the Highland boys cross country team have a watershed season this fall.
HHS has seven runners back, as seniors Nick Hanratty, Owen Kobbeman, Brylee Portell, Tyler Werner and Ethan Augustin give the Bulldogs harriers a veteran nucleus. Juniors Josh Loeh and Easton Rosen round out the returners.
“I’ve got experience with this group,” Highland coach Doug Bradley said. “It looks like our best chance that we’ve had in years to get to sectionals. We really, really want to get to sectionals.”
One underclassman that may be a major contributor as a newcomer is sophomore Cameron Pace. Sophomore Kyle Molitor, freshman Ethan Smith, the brother duo of sophomore Justin Wakeley and freshman Braden Wakeley, and freshman Mason Steinbeck will fill out the Bulldogs lineup.
So far through the first 2 1/2 weeks, the workouts have gone well for HHS. Bradley said he is still needing to tweak the practice schedule a bit to find the right balance for his runners.
“I’ve done as much changing to the workouts as I ever have and it’s been interesting,” Bradley said. “They do great with the workouts that are supposed to be hard, but the workouts that are supposed to be easy when we come back from the hard ones, we can’t seem to get the easy ones right. I really like how we’re doing on the hard ones, but we’re not exactly there on our recovery days.”
Bradley believes this group can go as far as it wants to this fall. Their focus is on steady growth through each practice and meet.
“We just want to come out every day and try to get a little bit better,” Bradley said. “That’s our mantra.”
HHS Girls looking for more state success
On the girls side, HHS returns 10 runners this season from a team that placed 21st last year at the 2018 Class 3A state meet.
Senior Sam Hengehold, juniors Jessica Borror and Julia Loeh, and sophomores Danielle Little, Britin Machuca, Faith Brindley, and Grace Meyer Paige Schaible comprise the core returnees.
“All of those girls that went to state last year are back and they are running well,” Bradley said. “We’ve got a great core back, expectations are high and kids are running great.”
Newcomers include sophomore Madalyn McCall, who is coming over from playing soccer in the spring. Freshmen Liv Heinzemann and Maddie Dortch will round out the rotation.
Dortch comes in as a highly regarded freshman.
“She comes over with a pedigree of pretty good success,” Bradley said. “She finished seventh in the state last year in junior high.”
Juniors Cloe Marti and Maggie Von Hatten will start the season on the junior varsity roster but could move up eventually.
As the Lady Bulldogs gear up for the start of their season, Bradley believes their biggest challenge will not come from outside opponents such as Triad, Mount Zion, or Chatham-Glenwood, but rather from within themselves as a team.
“I don’t think that their biggest challenges are going to be external opponents,” Bradley said. “I think their biggest challenge is going to be them motivating themselves to do bigger and better things — finding out what drives them.”
Chief among those bigger and better things is having an even stronger finish than last year’s 21st place showing in the Class 3A state meet.
“The girls and I have a talked about it and we’ve not put expectations on it but we all know that we are absolutely capable of that,” Bradley said. “It’s okay to dream big.”
Both teams are scheduled to open the season at 4 p.m. Tuesday in a tri-meet against Collinsville and Triad at Collinsville High School.