Warrior cross country team could have special year

Published 10:23 am Thursday, August 10, 2023

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Happy Valley High School cross country coach Matt Estep has coached the cross country and track & field teams long enough to know when he thinks his teams might have the right mix of athletes to reach the state level at the end of the season.
This year is no different as Estep has one of the deepest teams he has had in several seasons with the girls program while only two boys are taking on the tough courses on the schedule. The girls team has nine runners with only two being seniors.
“Many of them have competed at the varsity level, so there is plenty of experience to go along with the youth,” said Estep.  “We have only two boys this year, but they are both very hard workers and have the potential to do well individually by the end of the year.”
Estep will be looking to his top runners in Seilah Pickering, who qualified for the state cross country meet last season as a freshman and senior captain Juley Nieminski whom Estep said was a great team leader who will be competing for her first trip to state since she was a freshman. Estep also added that Mylee Lyle and Kenzie Letterman return for the girls and will bring valuable experience.
On the boys side, Julian Pate is the returning boy and was the most improved during last year’s season.
Newcomers to the cross country program are Casey Walker for the boys, who has been keeping pace with Pate during practice, along with Lindsay Hardin, Anna and Serenity Burks, AJ Rangel, and Kayla Parker who Estep has high expectations in 2023.
Estep said the key to a successful season is continual improvement against stiff competition.
“The key for the season will be whether all our young runners continue to improve and can get to the level of the more junior- and senior-heavy varsity teams we’ll be typically running against,” said Estep. “We are in a difficult position having to compete against schools like David Crockett, Tennessee High, and Elizabethton.  We’ll be competing against schools more than twice as big as we are at the regional in October.  And, of course, we’d like to have a bigger boys team.”
If all pieces of the puzzle come together, Estep can see this year’s team qualifying several athletes for the state meet which is a goal that all high school participants want to accomplish.
“This team has the potential to be the best team we have had since our girls won the regional championship in 2020,” Estep said. “Our goal, as always, is to get as many athletes into the state meet as possible.”

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