Cross Country preview: Top runner says teammates catching up

Senior Amanda Wilson leads the 2011 South Kitsap cross country team. - Courtesy photo
Senior Amanda Wilson leads the 2011 South Kitsap cross country team.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Schedule Date Meet Location Time
Sept. 10 Tahoma Relays Lake Wilderness Park 8 a.m.
Sept. 14 League Cedar Heights 3:45 p.m.
Sept. 17 Sundodger Lincoln Park Noon
Sept. 21 Battle Point Battle Point Park 3:45 p.m.
Sept. 28 League Gig Harbor 3:45 p.m.
Oct. 1 Tomahawk Marysville 1:45 p.m.
Oct. 8 Twilight Lincoln Bowl 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 NL Championship Fort Steilacoom Park 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 29 Westside Class. American Lake GC 1 p.m.
Nov. 5 State meet Sun Willows GC 12:30 p.m.

Coach: Paul Zimmer, sixth seasonKey returners: Boys: LaForrest Church, jr; Austin Fritz, sr.; Kyle Norris, jr.; Daniel Schulte, sr; Nick Sleigh, jr. Girls: Keegan Tasker, jr.; Jessica Peterson, jr.; Molly Wheeler, sr.; Amanda Wilson, sr.Key departures: Boys: Greg Lane, graduate; Cody Pace, graduated. Girls: None.Key newcomers: Boys: None. Girls: Kylee Matala, so.

South Kitsap once featured one of the state’s top cross-country programs.

While no one is predicting a return to that level, the Wolves at least could feature their best girls team in several years.

That is the assessment of coach Paul Zimmer, who said the girls team is the most talented of his six-year tenure.

“As a whole this has been my strongest group for sure,” he said.

It all starts with junior Jessica Peterson, who advanced to state last year after she placed sixth in 18 minutes, 55.4 seconds at the Westside Cross Country Classic at Lakewood’s American Lake Veterans Golf Course.

“These girls are catching up to me quite a bit this year,” said Peterson, adding that she worked out during the summer running trails in Banner Forest with her teammates. “I think we’re going to be really strong.”

South has depth behind Peterson. Amanda Wilson, who sat out the 2009 season because of knee problems, returned last year and advanced to the Westside meet. She placed 56th — the top 40 advanced to state — in 20:50.3. Wilson narrowly missed state in 2008 when she finished 33rd (19:59.1).

“None of us are the same as last year,” said Wilson, adding that she is healthy. “We all are much better.”

Keegan Tasker, a junior, returns after finishing 69th (20:50.3) at the Westside meet. Senior Molly Wheeler also is back after she placed 33rd (19:48.1) at that meet.

The results were strong enough — the Wolves finished eighth with 223 points — to advance their girls team to state.

“We didn’t lose one senior girl,” Zimmer said. “They’re in better shape than last year, so I think we’re in a good spot.”

He said sophomore Kylee Matala also could vie for a varsity spot.

“She came out in really good shape this year,” Zimmer said.

The school’s boys program would not mind duplicating that success as they were shut out of state last year.

“We’re hungry for state,” said junior LaForrest Church, who finished 102nd (17:44.8) at Westside.

Zimmer said depth is not a concern — he expects plenty of competition for varsity spots — but the team lacks a No. 1 runner.

Senior Daniel Schulte, who finished 67th (17:10.4), was South’s top placer at the Westside meet.

“He’s our one senior boy and is looking to push this team to the next level,” Zimmer said. “I think they’re going to be really crushed — they’re going to questioning what we’re doing — if we don’t make it to state this year.

“I would ask the same question of myself.”

Schulte is among more than a half-dozen Wolves who could vie for the team’s top position. In addition to Schulte, six South boys finished better than 18 minutes at that meet. That group includes senior Austin Fritz and juniors Church, Kyle Norris and Nick Sleigh. The other two runners who met that threshold, Cody Pace and Greg Lane, graduated.

“They’ve missed state by five or 10 points the last few years,” Zimmer said. “They’ve done the work and they understand what it takes.”

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