Whittell off and running towards state berth
What a difference a year makes.
Last season, the Whittell High cross country had trouble fielding an entire team and missed out on qualifying for the state meet by only one point.
But now, the numbers have practically tripled and the team is expecting nothing short of that state berth it missed out on last fall.
“We want to win as a team and head to state as a team,” junior Brian Beebe said. “There are only a few teams in the south we have to worry about.”
A year ago, the team was made up of primarily freshmen and sophomores. However, with the addition of seniors Chad Gerken, who is returning from Australia for a year and half, and Ben “The Mayor ” Johnson, who played soccer last fall, the team is loaded with upperclassman leadership.
“We just want to lead by example and help the team as much as possible,” Gerken said.
Warrior coach Brian Rippet has already noticed how much his older, fuller team has improved from last fall.
“We’ve created an atmosphere where people know it will be a successful season,” the coach said. “I will have a hard time picking a varsity team this season.”
Making his decision difficult will be a slew of newcomers and the seven returners. Coming back with Beebe are juniors Daniel Wines, Jarret Guajardo and Michael Komowoski. All of which should make for not only a crowded varsity squad, but a very deep junior varsity team as well.
“The five through nine slots on the varsity will be an ever-rotating basis,” Rippet said. “Whoever is running well on JV for a certain week will be bumped up to varsity.”
This season, the girls squad has also tripled in size. A year ago, senior Arlyle Shaw was the lone Warrior harrier. This year, WHS has three runners in Kim McGlothlin, Alexis Abelow and Christina Arana. All three will look for big things this fall.
McGlothlin, who was on the state champion volleyball team last fall, is working slowly back from a skiing accident last winter where she broke her back and crushed a foot.
The junior is about 80 percent recovered and goes to physical therapy three times a week but is ready to contribute a lot this fall.
“I’m not trying to worry about how fast I run in the beginning,” she said. “I just would like to finish the course.”
This year, the team will be able to host its first multi-team event for the first time since the 1980s, according to Rippet.
Last season, the Warriors hosted a race, but it turned out to be a duel event with Incline. This year, however, Rippet has teams coming from as far away as Oregon for the Sept. 7 event.
Serving as hosts to a multi-team race is just one of the reason why the team has seen an increased number of runners this fall.
“Mr. Rippet has done a lot with both track and cross country, that’s why I came back,” Johnson said. “I really admire him as a coach and a runner.”
There is no question the buzz around the team has created high expectations for the season.
“Everyone is expecting to do well this year,” Wines said. “It will be good to have eight people competing for the varsity team this year.”
Rippet can feel it as well.
“Ben told me the other day that he was excited to have a run-off for varsity,” the second-year coach said. “We now have three guys who have state experience at one point or another.”
By the end of the season, Rippet is hoping they all have state experience.
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