By AUSTIN COLBERT
Marie Reveles' freshman season on the Hays High School cross country team was impressive, having been the Indian girls' best runner most weeks. But the youth and inexperience finally showed as HHS entered the postseason.
"I think the experience she gained last year is awesome. I could see she ran with confidence all through the year last year," Hays High coach Jerold Harris said. "Come regional and state, I could see she doubted herself a little bit. She knew the competition was getting tougher. She got a little scared and I think with the experience she gained from that she's really going to be tough to beat this year. She's going to be a good one."
Reveles, now a sophomore, led Hays High in regionals at Newton last season with a 15th-place finish in the 4K race. She finished 62nd at the state meet at Rim Rock near Lawrence, with a time of 17 minutes, 26 seconds, well behind the 16:27 time posted at regionals.
But so far in fall practice Reveles looks like she will once again be top of the charts for the HHS girls, with her skill and work ethic not going unnoticed by her teammates.
"Marie is so strong. She is passionate about this," senior Summer Smith said. "She is probably the most passionate lover of running that I've ever met in my entire life. She just loves it and loves being out here."
The girls' team could be solid behind Reveles, as it also returns junior Haley George. George was the only other girl to qualify for state last season after narrowly missing the cut as a freshman. She finished in 75th place with a time of 17:55.
While Reveles and George are by far the top runners, Harris is expecting a lot from his other varsity returners, especially Smith, sophomore Alyssa Bryant, and junior Courtney Green, who ran with the team as a freshman before moving away last year.
Hope is more runners will emerge, with junior Lieacha Cook and freshman Madison Schmidt close to pushing the top five.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing Summer Smith run because she had an awesome track season last year. She really improved leaps and bounds," Harris said of the team's senior leader, who is also part of the Indians' golf team for the first time this fall.
"She's a good kid and if anybody can do it, it's her. As long as she thinks she can keep up with cross country and her grades and golf, we are going to let her give it a whirl. But cross country is her first priority and I tell you what, we need her leadership here because when she is gone you can tell the leadership is different."
The Hays High boys return their lone state qualifier from last season in sophomore Zachary Hopp. Hopp paced the boys all season long, and finished 51st at state in 17:53, a time he hopes to push below the 17-minute mark this season.
"I put in about 150 more miles this summer, so I think I'm ready for this season to get underway," Hopp said. "I think this year is going to be a little different because I know all the courses and I'm used to each. I know each course and what to expect. We lost a lot of seniors this year but we all have room to improve from the beginning of the year to the end."
The boys' team could suffer from growing pains this year, but the talent of the incoming freshmen class has Harris excited about the future. Sophomore Ethan Shippy will be the No. 2 runner, with returners senior Dylan Schmitt, senior Konner Buxton and sophomore Caden Cunningham providing experience.
Although, the freshmen trio of Garrett Gregg, Hunter Olsen and Allen Zollinger are expected to push the veterans this season.
Zollinger was second at the team's time trail behind Shippy, with Hopp not having run.
"(Hopp) was so tough last year running. He doesn't have much foot speed, he'll be the first to tell you that, but he'll beat you with his heart. He just runs and he'll run you into the ground," Harris said.
"We are going to be OK by the end of the year and I think we are just a year from being really pretty good, when Zach and Ethan are juniors and that freshmen group are sophomores with a year of experience. It's hard to look a year ahead, but I'm really excited for this year."
The Indians will get their six-meet schedule underway today at Great Bend. Other meets include Sept. 11 at Hesston, Sept. 18 in Hays, Sept. 25 at McPherson, Oct. 4 at Junction City and Oct. 11 at Salina Central.
Hays will also host the WAC meet on Oct. 16, with regionals taking place Oct. 25.