Five Shelby County athletes reached the semistate round of the 2015 Cross Country state tournament.
Four return seeking to take that final step into the state championship race in Terre Haute.
Only Southwestern’s Hayden Veach graduated. His teammates, Nick Yeend and Jenna Kuntz are back. So are Shelbyville’s Danielle Lubbe and Triton Central’s Dawn Tilley.
Yeend and Lubbe produced top-75 finishes at their respective semistates last year. Tilley was 109th at the Carmel Semistate. Kuntz finished 165th as a freshman at the Brown County Semistate.
Here’s a look at the five Shelby County cross country programs:
With her final cross country season looming, what did Lubbe do after completing a successful track and field season?
She took a break, according to Shelbyville girls cross country coach Kelli Hoeflinger.
“She has such a good base (of running) that she backed off (of her summer training) and I’m excited about that,” said Hoeflinger. “She is keeping her life balanced. She is refreshed. I know she will be where she needs to be in October.”
Lubbe and fellow senior Cora Reinhart are the veteran presence on a Golden Bears roster full of youth. But Reinhart is not expected to compete much this season to maintain her health going into her final basketball season.
“She has injury issues and it is un-wise to push it and jeopardize her basketball season,” said Hoeflinger. Reinhart will train with the team when her health allows and remains a strong leader within the program.
After Lubbe, there are two packs battling for positions. Hannah Lux, Braelyn Stacy, Jill Anspaugh and Grace Martin — all sophomores or freshmen — should fill the 2-5 spots at most meets. After that, Hoeflinger sees returnees Emily Coffey, Heather Hoffmeyer and Makinsi Pike and newcomer Cassie Christian competing for the final two varsity spots and even pushing to be in the top five.
“This team is so young and inexperienced we haven’t even set concrete team goals,” said Hoeflinger. “I don’t think they know what they can accomplish yet so I don’t want to put pressure on them.”
Shelbyville boys cross country coach Dan Theobald has two solid veterans, the middle school record holder and two move-ins that have him intrigued.
Seniors Nick Anderson and Chandler Martin are at the top of the roster with juniors Collin Scott and Braden McLane pushing for the top spot.
Also returning are sophomores Hans Serratos-Salazar, Nicholas Duffy and Lance Hughes.
Shelbyville Middle School record holder Matt Baker will immediately contribute to the varsity results along with fellow freshman Cole Lux.
The unknown part of the roster is Puerto Rican transfer Alexis DeJesus and Japanese transfer Shunsuke Kurokawa. Both moved into the school district and are accomplished athletes, according to Theobald.
The Yellow Jackets open the season with just four girls in the program.
Sophomores Sharon Howell and Cambie Poole return. New to cross country are senior Carly Shortridge and freshman Kirsten Payne.
Seniors Lucas Howell and Luke Schonfeld lead a boys program that has just six runners. Schonfeld has not run cross country in high school, according to head coach Elaine Goble-Carlton.
Wyatt Schonfeld moves up from the junior high program.
Sophomore Nathaniel Warfield and newcomer Jax Oster, who ran track in the Spring, should be at the top of roster when the season starts this week.
“Nathaniel and Jax battle back and forth in practices so it’s hard to say who will be No. 1,” said Goble-Carlton.
Luke Manship rounds out the Yellow Jackets’ roster.
Charlie Taylor decided the time was right to step down as Southwestern’s cross country coach despite having plenty of talent on the roster.
The timing allowed Chris Clark to move up from the junior high ranks to coincide with the arrival of his daughter, Morgan, who will join with Kuntz and fellow sophomore Deziree Norvell, a regional qualifier in 2015, to give the Spartans a strong, young trio at the top of the roster.
Senior Madeleine Correll will push the youngsters, according to Chris Clark, with solid athletes Brenna Jackson, Emmy Wendling, Danielle Phillips, Madison VanGorden and Regan Mangrum completing the team.
With Yeend leading the way, Clark expects the Spartans to continue its recent trend as the best team in Shelby County and the Mid-Hoosier Conference.
Fellow seniors Andrew Tucker, Brant Featherston, Ethan Swift and Gage Kelley give the new coach experience to work with. But after the quintet of seniors, there are only two freshmen — Caleb Sturgill and Keegan Weaver.
“We are strong at the top,” said Clark. “We just need to get that fifth runner in and that will be an experience thing.”
With the addition of track athletes Madison Garner and Samantha McGivern, head coach Greg Hill has six solid athletes on the girls roster.
With Tilley at the top, there will always be a fast finisher wearing green and white.
“She made the semistate last year and she is not the type of person to be satisfied,” said Hill. “It will take a real improvement over her time at the semistate but she is one of the mentally strongest kids I’ve ever coached.”
After Tilley, there are returning sophomores Sydney Bass, Ryleigh McAllister and Melissa Myers.
“Sydney and Ryleigh are further along than at this point last year,” said Hill. “And they may be further along than where they finished at the end of the season.”
Five seniors graduated from the boys program leaving Adam Corbett and Trent Yentes as the senior leaders in 2016.
Without any juniors on the roster, the experience level drops to sophomores Jayden Evans, Andrew Gillespie and Michael Sanders.
Adam Tomamichel, Trent Tomamichel, Andrew Spegal and Colin Goins join the varsity roster after competing in middle school.
“We are very young but I think we will be better,” said Hill. “We have a young group of freshmen that is pushing the older kids. There is just not a lot of separation right now.”
Former collegiate runner Scotty Kern takes over the Mohawks program this season and has 15 athletes on the roster.
There are no upperclassmen on the girls roster. Sophomores Hannah Sullivan and Victoria Shaw return to lead the way.
“Victoria is going to be really good this year,” said Kern. “We got her (summer) miles up to about 40 per week so she is going to be pretty strong.”
Sophomore twins Anna and Amy Evans join the team for the first time with freshman Kari Knepp completing the roster.
The boys team did little to no summer training in 2015. That was not the case in 2016.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Kern. “Last year, I came on in August to help with the team and there was no base mileage. There were no runners training. This year, the vast majority of the team spent all summer getting miles in.”
Senior Joe Scoville is the most experienced. Juniors Andrew Montgomery, Zach Montgomery, Collin Simpson and Devon Higdon provide depth. Sophomores Dylan Nelis, Stewart Douglas, Bailey Yarling and freshman Jacob James complete the roster.
“I think the guys are geared up and ready to go,” said Kern.
Jeff Brown is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @iamtsnsports.