When it comes to the sport of cross country, Eastern Washington is a bit of a national hotbed for runners and the NEA League is no exception. Deer Park, Medical Lake and Lakeside had the top three men’s teams in the state last year and the women’s programs weren’t slackers either.
The Cougars, however, are up to the challenge.
“On one hand that makes it difficult for our athletes to qualify for state,” third-year coach Melissa Burkey said. “But on the other hand competing against the best teams in the state on a regular basis makes us strong and pushes us to be better.”
The Cougar cross country team turned out 19 high school and 13 junior high runners this year and more importantly they have some strong upperclassmen for leadership. The Cougars have far more underclassmen than upperclassmen but the returning runners will provide the valuable commodities known as experience and leadership.
This should give the current underclassmen just starting their careers a strong foundation to grow.
“Returning runners Grant Brookover and Reimes Schatz are our captains this year and bring a lot to the table,” Burkey said. “Both are dedicated and demonstrate a lot of personal integrity.”
Schatz ran over 500 miles this summer, while the men’s squad also returns Ethan Rowe and sophomore Sylus Snelling.
“I consider Sylus instrumental because he is the type of runner who shows up and gives 110 percent everyday,” Burkey said.
On the girls side, the squad will add three freshmen girls and senior Jennah Earl will lace up the running shoes in cross country for the first time. The team also will have two foreign exchange students – Beatrice Ilari from Italy and Lynn Dubs from Switzerland.
“I believe that this team’s strengths are that they aren’t afraid of a challenge and they know how to work hard but still have fun while they do it,” Burkey said. “Distance running can be grueling but having teammates that support you, push you, and encourage you makes a big difference.”
The key to the team’s success this year is preparation, Burkey added.
“Preparing not only physically by putting in the time, miles, sweat and effort but mentally too,” she said. “You have to be willing to push yourself when it gets uncomfortable and be disciplined in making choices that will put you close to your performance goals.”
The Cougars will have a front-loaded schedule with the toughest races beginning the season before the league meets start.
“I’m pleased with the efforts my runners have put in these first couple of weeks,” Burkey said. “They are really starting to come together as a team.”
The Cougars opened the season at the Farragut Invite and will run again on Sept. 17 at the Super 1 Invite in Cour d’Alene.
By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff
COUGAR CROSS COUNTRY ROSTER
High School Men (13)
Grant Brookover (Sr.)
Gauge Danderson (Sr.)
Reimes Schatz (Jr.)
Andrew Minaker (Jr.)
Ethan Rowe (Soph.)
Carl Oman (Soph.)
Sylus Snelling (Soph.)
Isaac Cochran (Soph.)
Joe Dreiszus (Soph.)
Zakary Kubik (Soph.)
Philip Chantry (Soph.)
Wyatt Colling (Fr.)
Judah Katona (Fr.)
High School Women (6)
Beatrice Ilari (Sr.)
Lynn Dubs (Sr.)
Jennah Earl (Sr.)
Liandra Haden (Fr.)
Charlotte Falstad (Fr.)
Jayci Earl (Fr.)
Jr. High Boys (4)
Wyatt Smith (8th)
Boaz Katona (8th)
Lukas Kubik (8th)
Justyce Acosta (8th)
Jr. High Girls (9)
Jenny Kiefer (8th)
Mackensey Thomason (8th)
Mia Bellevue (7th)
Natalie George (7th)
Kailee Parrott (7th)
Kaytlin Collins (6th)
Ryleigh Earl (6th)
Makayla Thomason (6th)
Maddie Trampush (6th)
2016 CROSS COUNTRY SCHEDULE
Sept. 10 Farragut Invite 9 a.m.
Sept. 17 Super 1 at CDA 10 a.m.
Sept. 24 49 North Invite (Chew.) 9 a.m.
Sept. 28 Deer Park NEA Meet 4 p.m.
Oct. 1 Can-Am in Kettle Falls 10 a.m.
Oct. 4 Colville NEA Meet 4 p.m.
Oct. 12 Medical Lk. NEA Meet 4 p.m.
Oct. 19 Riverside NEA Meet 4 p.m.
Oct. 27 Districts (Chewelah) 4 p.m.
Nov. 5 State Meet TBD