Whittell High blazes a new trail in Zephyr Cove | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell High blazes a new trail in Zephyr Cove

A key ingredient for any successful cross country program is quality trails to run on.

At Whittell High, the trails have never been a problem. What has been the obstacle in the past was a lack of runners to run on them.

But that all seems to be changing.

First-year head coach Brian Rippet has fielded the largest team in recent memory. His squad may have numbers, but they lack experience.

Only two runners have high school experience on the boys side, but both runners are definitely experienced. Jarret Guajardo and Daniel Wines, both sophomores, are returning to anchor this year’s team.

Guajardo qualified for state as a freshman and Wines narrowly missed his first trip.

“They’re the leaders on the team this year,” said Rippet, a University of Oregon graduate. “They are the only ones with any high school experience and know the trails.”

Joining Guajardo and Wines are a quartet of freshmen and another sophomore. The sophomore, Brian Beebe, suffered an early season injury, but is rounding back into shape and is prepared to make a run at the top five spots by the end of the season.

“He finished seventh in our run-off, but he should be in the top three soon,” Rippet said.

Rippet also expect big things from his freshmen, all of whom have the capabilities to make it to state. Justin Alexander, Mike Chilton and Mike Komowoski will all be counted on to provide big races this fall.

The Warriors also have a pair of girls on this year’s team and both have varsity experience and should provide added leadership. Senior Arlyle Shaw and sophomore Kelly Flanagan each have the potential to perform big things for Rippet’s squad. Flanagan is making her debut as a Warrior this fall after transferring from Placerville.

All in all, the Warriors have one of the deepest teams in years, according to Rippet. Rippet is also bringing a new perspective to the team.

“This year has a more positive outlook,” Wines said.

Although the team is inexperienced, both the runners and Rippet feel the 2000 campaign will shape up to be a successful one.

“If we improve every race and practice, then I’ll consider it a good year for us,” Rippet said.

The Warriors will get their first chance to taste success and get their trail shoes broken in when they travel to Vail, Ore., to compete in the Oregon Trail Invitational this Saturday. Training in a higher altitude, the Warriors should have an edge, and coupled with the fact Whittell will be racing against smaller schools for the first time, all the runners are comfortable with the possibilities.

“It was tough for us to decide to run varsity or JV,” Wines said. “But Rippet said there would only be five or six teams with our school size there at the varsity level.

“If we had decided to run JV, then we’d race against all the schools, big or small. That made the decision easy for us.”

Training at the higher elevation should pay big dividends toward the end of the season as well.

“You can always tell when kids are struggling,” Wines said. “For me, who lives in the Carson Valley, it was hard to adjust to at first after the summer.”

Adjustment or not, the Warriors are ready to get up and running.

Last year: qualified one runner for state

Coach: Brian Rippet, first year

Returning starters: three (Jarret Guajardo, Daniel Wines, Arlyle Shaw)

Player quote: “This year has a more positive outlook, Rippet always tells us when we do a good job,” sophomore Daniel Wines.

Key to season: improvement each week

Opener: Oregon Trail Invitational, Saturday.

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