The high school boys and girls cross country season began last week at schools across the state.
West Valley Preps and the Surprise Independent asked local high school coaches about their teams. Here are their responses.
Boys and Girls Coach: Ron Steinhilber (second year for both)
Section: Division III Metro
Who are your top returning runners? On the boys’ side, our top returning runners include Junior William Spalding, who missed qualifying for states by two seconds last year, Sophomore Paul Hart, who has taken a big step forward during summer practice, and Junior Trevor Larson, a strong 400/800 runner, who grinds it out for us during the cross country season. Sophomore Gabriel Klenner gets better every day and I expect his times to drop considerably throughout the season.
For the girls, Senior Olivia Cuestas, who finished in the Top 25 at state last year, should be the top runner. Sophomores Sahara Lara, Lauren Kucik and Addison Seabaugh will also be counted on to score points for the team.
Who are some of the newcomers that may have an impact this year? The boys’ team has a whole bunch of newcomers. Transfer sophomore Christian Head (from Imagine Prep) should be our top runner. He hopes to hold the school record by season’s end, and I think he can break it. Freshman Aaron Hubbard can be one of the top freshmen in Division III. Freshman Andrew Kim has also been impressive during summer practices. Juniors Matthew Good and Trey Mitchell will also provide depth for us when necessary.
The girls have two freshmen, Kayla “Squishy” Bedoya and Emery Levin, who will have a big influence on the team. Bedoya could push Cuestas for the No. 1 spot throughout the season and Levin has a ton of experience and knows how to race. Their biggest challenge is going from the 1.5 mile middle school distance to the high school 5K distance, but I think they’re handling the change just fine so far. Lindsey Blaich, a track specialist who is focusing on conditioning, is a good enough athlete with a strong competitive side to make an impact as well.
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? I look at two things that will help us be successful. First, we are young. Out of the 20 athletes on the team, 15 are sophomores or freshmen. They all work hard and have a desire to improve. This will allow us to build the culture that we want to build at Paradise Honors … one of positivity, teamwork, and encouragement.
Second, is the growth of that culture. Our runners get along well with each other. They all talk to each other and support each other during practices. Cross country is a hard sport, especially in Arizona with the high temperatures. However, the kids come to practice ready to work every day, knowing that their teammates are counting on them. They must enjoy it at some level, or they wouldn’t be coming back every day.
What are the primary individual and team goals? The primary goal for the boys is to qualify as a team for states. I believe we have the talent to do so this year. I expect the boys to be very good by the end of the season and, in the future, so we are hoping to start an annual trip to state this season. Individually, I’d like to see everyone consistently improve their times and have numerous runners break the 19 minute barrier. If that goal is achieved, we could be in the Top 15 at state. That would be awesome, considering we only had one runner qualify last year.
As far as the girls’ team goes, we’d like to earn our third sectional championship plaque in a row. The girls are going to have to work hard, but I think they can do it. We only have seven runners, so they are all going to have to contribute. Hopefully, the returning runners improve, and the freshmen step up like they are capable of. If that happens, things are going to go well for the girls.
Boys Coach: Arrick Nietert (sixth year)
Girls Coach: Haley Ruebsamen (fifth year)
Section: Division I Southwest
Who are your top returning runners? Boys: Andrew Retzlaff, Noah Levin, Jackson Bland, Kaleb Goltiao,
Who are some of the newcomers that may have an impact this year? Boys: Seth Bohon, Andrew Nevarez, Connor Lester, Alexander Grady
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Boys: Hard working consistent runners. We have a solid top four but 5-7 can be anyone’s spot. There are about seven different people that can be in that mix
What are the primary individual and team goals? Boys: Win sectional. Keep healthy.