Phillips expects to lead his teammates to the next level

SK senior Jon Phillips provides valuable experience for the Wolves this season. - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
SK senior Jon Phillips provides valuable experience for the Wolves this season.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

t South Kitsap cross-country

teams plan to

run all the way

to state this year.

It can be difficult to recruit top athletes to run cross country at South Kitsap because many boys play football, and the girls often choose soccer.

But one of the school’s best track athletes is out again this fall.

Senior Jon Phillips, who helped the Wolves advance to state in the 1,600-meter relay last spring, returns as the boys No. 1 runner.

And he’s got a message for his teammates — a little success breeds a lot of confidence.

“It’s all in your head,” said Phillips, who has received recruiting attention for track from Washington State and DePaul of Chicago. “People have an amazing race and they never realized they could do it before.”

That might be important as the Wolves’ depth took a hit during the offseason when last year’s No. 2, Jeff Robinson, moved, and will compete for rival Gig Harbor.

But Phillips said this year’s team is strong through its top seven.

“The whole group needs to move up a little bit for us to contend for a top spot in state,” he said.

Along with Phillips, the Wolves return seniors Dan Nadeau, who also was part of the 1,600-relay team, Donny Boe and Andrew Vargus, as well as junior Andrew Crock.

“We want the team at state this year,” Boe said. “Not just individuals.”

Phillips said both the boys and girls teams worked out together during the summer to help accomplish that objective.

He said the workouts, which were held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, drew between eight and 25 athletes.

“The last two years they’ve been pretty disappointed with missing the state meet by less than five points,” South coach Paul Zimmer said. “I think that’s still sitting in their stomachs. It’s a big motivation for them.”

Zimmer said the squads combined have 35 to 40 members, but the makeup is a lot different between the boys and girls.

The girls team struggled last year with inexperience and graduated its top runner, Britta Peterson, who now competes for Evergreen State.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t have a lot of races under their belts,” Zimmer said. “They should come around toward the end. We only have one or two senior girls.”

One of those seniors is Brianna Gundrum. Despite the team’s youth, she’s excited about the Wolves’ talent.

“It’s pretty young, but a lot of the newer girls are pretty fast,” she said. “They keep up with the varsity runners. We want to push them to get us to where we want.”

That’s the district level, which Gundrum feels the team can reach. The Wolves didn’t qualify for districts last year. Some of the other top competitors include juniors Erica Copeland and Jessica Duckworth along with sophomore Leandra Shdo.

The season begins for both teams at 10 a.m. today at the Bellarmine Invitational.

“I’m really excited for that first race,” Duckworth said. “I can’t wait.”

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