CROSS COUNTRY KICKS INTO HIGH GEAR
By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Reporter
Several local powerhouse cross country teams return many of their star runners from last year.
And all those teams will get a good look at how they stack up Friday at the Catherine Creek Scamper at Catherine Creek State Park.
Enterprise, Joseph, La Grande, Wallowa, Union and Powder Valley will all field teams at the event.
La Grande Tigers
First-year coach Ian Schroeder said the team appears strong this year. The La Grande boys finished third in last week's Hermiston Invitational. Schroeder said the team will only get stronger.
"The beauty of it is most of the kids are new," he said.
So far, one of the year's surprises has been Dane Johnson. He finished fourth at Hermiston. Schroeder said this surprised him just a little.
"It shows how much he's put into it" during the offseason, Schroeder said.
Returning to the boys team is Chris Bond. Other members of the varsity team are Leif Bullock, Drew Kelly, Antoine Stalin and Ezra Axelrod.
The girls will have a full varsity squad for the first time in about 10 to 15 years, said Schroeder. Anchoring the team will be Kayla Arritola, who finished 39th in the state last year.
Joining Arritola are Malia Anderson, Colleen Barker, Kaylene Chamberlain, Elizabeth Esser and Lori Clemens. Jessica Fulfer, a transfer from Imbler, is also new to the Tigers. Schroeder said Fulfer "is a huge addition to the team."
New coach Steve Sheehy has an awful lot of talent to work with this year. The Union girls won the 2A state title last year and return 80 percent of that winning group. Only one senior from last year, Stephanie Upshaw, has moved on.
"I've got a good group of girls. I'm lucky for my first year to be working with this group," Sheehy said.
State champion team members returning this year are juniors Shannon Mitchell and Ashley Sharratt (both of whom finished in the top 10 in the Hermiston Invitational last week), sophomore Kara Baxter and senior Jill Vorderstrasse. New runners are junior Shannon McReynolds, sophomores Krystal Papineau and Sarah House and freshman Rebecca Colton.
Sheehy said the boys team also looks good.
"The boys could surprise some people. They could be strong ... we still have some work to do," he said.
Returning to the team are seniors Jared Baxter and Daniel Warburton, and sophomore Billy Garrison, who qualified for state last year as a freshman.
Other boys on the team are freshmen Klamath Walker, Bren Sheehy, Bryan Hesse and Harold Wolford, as well as Ralf Altebockwinkel, an exchange student from Germany.
In a cooperative sponsorship, Sheehy will also be coaching cross country runners from Powder Valley High. He said the team should get a boost from Powder Valley senior Dylan Smith.
"We run in a pack, and we've still got most of the pack," said Wallowa coach Jesse Turner.
Senior Patrick Smergut graduated, but returning are sophomore Lee Phelps, and juniors Nick Johnson, Chris Tsiatsos and Brandon "Boo" Casper.
"They're running strong so far," he said. Johnson was fifth at state, and should only get stronger as he gets older.
For the girls, the team brings back senior Larae Guillory, who finished 15th at state last year. She will be looking to make her fourth trip to state.
More importantly, though, Wallowa will for the first time have a full girls' team. "We're pretty excited about that," said Turner.
Also on the team are juniors Deena Tsiatsos and Chelcy Goodwin, and an influx of freshmen, Relissa Wortman, Hayley Oveson and Samantha Silveira.
Enterprise will have an unfunded program this year coached by volunteer Dan Moody.
Moody said he preaches the value of teamwork.
"We don't look to a single runner. They're a team. In the past (all the team members) have all stepped it up."
Last year, the Enterprise boys finished third at state, but they were only a single point out of first place. The Enterprise girls placed eighth at state.
On the boys' squad this year are Austin Himes, Willie Grover, David Cook, Chris Lozier, Andrew Gorbett, Andy Vernarsky and Michael Swart. On the girls' team are Whitney Locke, Julie Vernarsky, Linnaea Kibler, Brandi Bowman, Nicole Anderson, Rose Averbeck, Jessica Osterloh, Andrea Schaefer, Marisa Anderson, Patrick Baird and Cameron Rose.
Joseph coach John Moro said the team won't be big this year, with three boys out for cross-country. Brothers Jake Layton (senior) and Derek Layton (sophomore) will comprise the team, along with freshman Julian Moro.
"We're trying to work toward individual development, and to teach [the runners] that they can achieve whatever they want," Moro said.