Last season leaves Wolves hungry for more | Cross country preview

Jessica Peterson leads the Wolves
Jessica Peterson leads the Wolves' girls cross-country team, which aims to make its second consecutive state appearance.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

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

And while a top-10 finish at state might be unrealistic, coach Paul Zimmer at least is hoping this season to develop some consistency within the program.

That means being a state regular. The Wolves' girls team accomplished that last year, and even with the graduations of Molly Wheeler and Amanda Wilson, he is hoping they can return to state.

"I think that's still the end goal for them," Zimmer said. "They lost some key girls, but I think we have the right girls to step up."

It starts with senior Jessica Peterson, who finished 25th at last year's 5-kilometer state meet at 19 minutes, 11.2 seconds.

"I need to get up and post college times," Peterson said. "The pressure is on this year."

For others, the emphasis is just trying to keep pace with Peterson. Her two closest teammates at state were Wheeler (19:50.7, 69th place) and Wilson (20:25.4, 107th). Senior Keegan Tasker (20:41.8, 123rd) was next. Zimmer said Tasker and senior newcomer Darby Womack, who ran the 800 meters during track season, will vie for the No. 2 position.

"[Womack] came out for track and surprised us all," he said.

Zimmer said there could be as many as seven runners vying for the final three varsity positions.

South's boys team enters the season in a much different position. Senior LaForrest Church (16:58.6, 104th) is the only state returner. Varsity mainstay Daniel Schulte (17:10.4, 118th) graduated.

"We definitely have a lot to prove," Church said. "We were two points shy of qualifying for state as a team. It leaves a bitter taste and we want to prove we're able to do it."

Church, who more than doubled his work from previous summers to 400 miles, said both the boys' and girls' teams were dedicated to offseason workouts. Zimmer said it has shown with several runners, particularly Church.

"He's a completely different runner since track season," he said. "He's put a lot into himself. He's quite a bit stronger."

Behind Church, Zimmer said seniors Kyle Norris and Jacob Yarbrough will compete for the next two varsity positions. He also expects sophomores Sam Grader and Mason Villarma and senior twins Nick and Zach Sleigh to round out the varsity roster. But he added that freshmen Richard James and Jack Shaffer are other potential varsity contributors.

Zimmer said that all should be sorted out soon. He loaded the September schedule with high-profile meets before the Wolves enter Class 4A Narrows League competition next month. It began Saturday with the Sundodger Invitational at Seattle's Lincoln Park. South also will compete in the Bellevue Invitational on Sept. 22 at Lake Sammamish Park and the Sept. 29 Tomahawk Invitational in Marysville.

"I don't usually have a full September," Zimmer said. "It should be fun for the kids to see different competition."

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