After winning the St. Clair County and Belleville City Cross Country championships last season, Belleville West senior Brian Gichuru entered his senior season hoping to take that next step towards a possible trip to the state finals in Peoria in early November.
However Gichuru’s chances of reaching Detweiller Park be a little more difficult than coach Patton Segraves had envisioned when the Summer began.
“Brian didn’t have the most consistent Summer in terms of running or conditioning. But that’s something we’ll deal with. He’s just going to have to step up his training now,’’ Segraves said. “I know he’s still got some very lofty goals that he would like to achieve and I think he can get there.’’
Now a 12-year coaching veteran, Segraves enters this season with a solid boys team which figured to contend for a top four spot in the Southwestern Conference and a berth in the Class 3A Sectional.
For that to happen, the Maroons will have tro get solid seasons out of the Robben brothers — Nate and Lucas. Nate Robben, a senior, has been a two-year letter-winner with the Maroons program and will be a solid runner in the middle of the lineup. Younger brother Lucas, a junior, could be one of the more talented and improved runners on the Maroons squad.
Junior James Reed along with senior Ethan Lamons are also expected to be in the Maroons top seven as are sophomore Cameron Smith and first year runner Justin Koderhandt.
West girls in a rebuilding mode
For the first time in several years, Segraves doesn’t have a dominant No. 1 runners to lead the way for his girls team. Instead, the veteran Maroons squad does have a group of athletes, many of which are new to cross country.
“We have a very young squad, many of them who have never run before. The good news is that we’ve got two juniors but the rest are freshman and sophomores with a lot of room to grow and improve in the future,’’ Segraves said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. Getting them to run three miles is something we’re working on. But if we continue to work hard and improve as the season goes on, we will be fine.’’
Sophomore Kayla Kokotovich is the Maroons top runner after competing at the No. 2 spot a year ago.
“Kayla is a solid runner and she’s going to have to lead the way for us,’’ Segraves said. “I think one of her goals should be to be all-Conference this season. If it’s even third team all-conference that would be an accomplishment. I think she has the ability to do that.’’
Junior Alyssa Frakes, sophomores Hayley Steen and Sofia Sierra and freshman Elizabeth Doerr are all frontrunners to compete in the Maroons top five runners