Veterans to lead Husky harriers

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Veteran leadership will help the Husky cross-country teams this year, but how far they go will depend on how less experienced runners step up in Sweet Home’s new ValCo League, according to coach Billy Snow.

The boys team welcomes three seniors back, two of whom have mileage behind them as they enter the 2006 season.

The girls are a little more iffy, with some question marks behind three veterans, seniors Cassandra Schumacher and Jessica Trautwein, and junior Ashley Danielson.

On the boys side, Jess Keys, Peter VanDerlip and Jake Smith return for their senior seasons. Both Keys and Smith have trained during the summer for the Hood to Coast Relay high school distance relay, held last weekend. VanDerlip has to get in shape after working a job for most of the summer.

“The guys team looks solid,” Snow said. “We have seven to nine guys who could run varsity. They’ll have to push themselves in practice and we’ll see where they fall out.”

Keys was the team’s leader through much of last season but suffered from cramps and was beaten by VanDerlip at the district meet. VanDerlip placed eighth in that meet, missing the state championships by one second as he ran 17:42.

Back also this year is junior Dallin Holden and sophomore Robert Callagan, who ran varsity for much of last season. They will be joined by sophomore Josh Rice, who is a candidate to move up from the junior varsity.

Also back this year is Ramiro Santana, who was the third- or fourth-place finisher for the Huskies in several races. Santana gave football a try this year, but decided that he’d rather run cross-country.

Newcomers include Byron Sanders, who ran workouts with the Huskies last year as an eighth-grader and got to compete in a few races as an unattached runner. Freshman Brandon Rice, Josh Rice’s brother, is another new addition, along with sophomores Dustin Coleman and Nicky Smith, Jake Smith’s brother.

He said it’s possible that two soccer players, junior KC Hanscam and freshman Dakotah Keys, Jess Keys’ brother, may run some cross-country as well if it can be worked out, and there are some others who have shown up for workouts.

“The goal with this group of guys is to qualify as a group for state,” said Snow, adding that he thinks several of the Huskies could get into the low 18s or high 17s for the 5000 meters if they stay healthy.

“You can tell who’s been running and who hasn’t,” he said of early time trial results.

The girls are thin on numbers but have some substantial varsity experience in the group of returnees from last year’s team, which graduated four seniors, Snow said.

The seniors are expected to provide leadership for the Huskies, he said.

Schumacher qualified for state as an individual last year and then followed that up by making the 3A state track championships in the 3000. Trautwein has done roadwork through the summer, including running races, and will bring that preparation to the new season, Snow said.

They and Danielson are the “core” of the varsity group, he said.

“We have to have the people in the rest of the group step it up and move up the ladder or chain,” Snow said.

Senior Staci Grove, last year’s number-seven varsity runner is also back, as is Lacey Hightower. Newcomers are freshman Jill Mahler, Hightower’s sister, and sophomores Louise Wilcox and Afton Rodgers.

“We’re still looking around for girls,” Snow said.

He said the move to the ValCo League will present mixed benefits for Sweet Home.

“It’s six to one, half dozen to another,” Snow said. “The leagues arequite comparable. In the Capital League, Cascade, Molalla and Sisters have always been strong, both boys and girls. In our new league, Philomath and Newport are always tough as nails in cross country and track.

“Central has been good, too, for the last four or five years. Central is kind of like us. The boys are always tougher than the girls.

Taft, which got a new coach last year, is more of an unknown, he said, though it tends to have “individuals every once in a while.

“League-wise, we don’t fall off in terms of competition,” Snow said.