Boys squad begins rebuilding after graduation
While the boys team probably will spend much of the season looking to slot runners behind Raul Silva, the Juanita girls cross country looks primed to have a strong season in 2008.
There is some rebuilding to do on the boys team. Top runner Gedion Yitref graduated after being the only Rebel to run at the state meet for the boys team. Strong varsity runner Cort Sage also graduated. In addition juniors Austin Tran and Dane Baird, along with senior Jake Brown won’t return to the program after deciding to fully commit to other sports. Tran and Baird play soccer; Brown wrestles.
“We lost a lot of our good depth,” said Juanita coach Jim Henry. “There’s just a lot of inexperience on the boys team.”
Silva, a junior, will be the team’s top runner this season. Silva placed 28th at the District 2/4 Meet at the end of his 2007 season. He also snagged three top-5 finishes last season. Silva ran a time of 17 minutes, 10 seconds or faster in every meet but one, with a top time of 16:24 at the Bellevue High School Invite on Sept. 22.
“He’s running pretty well right now,” Henry said. “And that’s because all he did this summer was run.”
Juanita has 28 runners on the boys team and there will be just two seniors running on the varsity squad, meaning the Rebels are set up pretty well for next season and beyond.
Whereas the boys team might take some time to gel, the girls team has the top runners and the following depth to do some damage in the KingCo.
“This is the best girls team I’ve ever had at Juanita,” Henry said. “We didn’t lose anyone and they ran all summer long.”
The strong Juanita girls team starts at the top with Tansey Lystad. The sophomore returns as Juanita’s lone girls state runner, she placed 45th.
“We’re predicting she’ll be back at state this year,” Henry said. “And with another year of experience, she should do fairly well at state.”
Lystad placed in the top 10 three times in her freshman season. She ran a season-best 19:22 on Oct. 27 at the District 2/4 Meet.
Behind Lystad is a group of six strong runners all within a minute of each other. Seniors Claire Anderson and Blair Howisey lead the group in experience. The girls team is at 15 runners this season, up from the usual seven or eight for Juanita. That allows the team to have a full junior varsity team as well, building depth for upcoming seasons.
“It’s such a good group of girls,” Henry said. “They’re definitely very focused on what they want to do this year. They’re driven.”
There is something to the competition being slightly easier in 3A than it is in 4A. Taking the average team times from the 16 teams at the respective state meets, 4A comes out ahead with a time of 17:12 to 3A’s 17.30.
To put the difference in times in perspective, Yitref placed 49th with a time of 17:07. That time would have netted him a tie for 34th at the 3A meet. Lystad placed 45th with a time of 20:17, that time would have tied her for 21st at the 3A meet.
However, the Rebels aren’t alone in their transition from 4A to 3A. Henry said a number of Spokane teams (including last year’s girls state champion, Andrea Nelson of Shadle Park) will move down to 3A this season, making it the largest classification in Washington.
“Nothing really changes with us going to 3A,” Henry said. “Tansey is definitely faster this year, but we aren’t counting on a jump because of the move to 3A.”
The Rebels spent much of the summer meeting five times a week at 8 a.m. to run. Henry said they consistently had 20-25 participants at each practice, and he didn’t even have to make phone calls. The runners did it themselves.
“When kids take ownership of the program great things can happen.”
Juanita’s first meet is the KingCo Jamboree on Sept. 10 at Lake Sammamish State Park.