For coach Doug Bradley, the aim for his Highland High School boys cross country team this season is to take a step forward after a tough, rebuilding year last fall. However, he knows it will not be an easy task.
Last season, the Bulldogs finished fifth in the Mississippi Valley Conference and ninth at the Class 2A Triad Regional.
“Even in a rebuilding year, those were tough outcomes,” said Bradley, who is assisted by Bob Vance. “This year, the goal is to improve on each of those finishes. It will be tough as we lost four seniors (to graduation) and one other runner (Hayden Smart) who was a sectional qualifier.”
Bradley, whose team opens the season at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1 with the Kick-Off Meet at Alhambra Township Park, said there were some individuals who had a good off-season running regimen, but as a team, however, this summer saw the Bulldog harriers post one of the program’s lowest mileage totals in the last several years.
Two returning team leaders who put in quality mileage this summer were juniors Jacob Plocher and Bret Cochran.
Jacob Plocher has worked really hard, and the hope is that he will develop into a solid pace setter for us,” Bradley said. “Bret Cochran has run well this offseason, and hopefully, that will translate to some success as well. If the rest of the team can run with Jacob, we will find some opportunities to compete. If not, it will be an uphill grind for us all season.”
Junior Brock Schrage should also be a key returner for Highland and freshman Caleb Machuca figures to be among the Bulldogs’ top-four runners.
The team’s projected top-seven runners definitely includes the aforementioned four, but Bradley said the field is more wide open after that.
Junior Brendan Schrage is one possibility. He also is a member of this fall’s boys soccer team.
“If he can get some races under his belt, he could be an important contributor,” Bradley said.
Additionally, senior Adam Kelso has had a productive summer and Bradley said that could put him in the mix.
Key newcomers for Highland this fall are junior Tyler Higgins, who won the Class 2A state title in the 400-meter dash last spring as a sophomore; as well as junior Jake Menz, junior Bryce Sexton and freshman Isaac Jones.
Completing the roster for the Bulldogs are junior Grant Thole, junior Jacob White, sophomore Quentin Miller, sophomore Nick Schaible, sophomore Seth Schwappach, freshman Joe Gallo and freshman Isaac Jones.