TONASKET – For the first time in years, Tonasket will have middle school runners on the cross country team with the high school.
There are 13 middle school students running alongside the 15 high school cross country runners for a total of 28, which head coach Bob Thornton says is the largest team Tonasket has had in quite a while.
Thornton, in his 24th year of coaching the sport, is assisted by Angie Bolich and says cross country is far too hard to not have fun doing it.
“We try to stay relaxed and have fun but still be competitive when need be,” he said. “This is the first year for middle school in a long time so they are new to the sport. I’m really excited about how well the middle school runners are doing and can’t wait to see how well they do in races this year. The high school has some new athletes but most either turned out last year or have experience running distance in track last year.”
There are two returning seniors this year, Corey McCrarey and Spencer Podkranic. Thornton said sophomore Damon Halvorsen ran at state last year as a freshman and is looking good again this year.
“The rest of the boys’ team has been running as a pack and are right on [Halvorsen's] heels,” Thornton said. “Also, Jessica Spear and Amy Johnson were on the team that went to state last year.”
He added that Michelle Carlson and Emmy Hickman are both coming off from running well in track last spring and are looking strong in practice. Kablina Kochsmeier and Lilyrose Fox are new to cross country, Thornton said, and as they get experience, he thinks they’ll be right with the rest of the team. He said Jake Hickman is new to cross country but has been pushing Halvorsen in practice.
Thornton said he will know how well the team will do this season after the district meet on Oct. 29, which he says is when everything counts.
“Practices are designed to progress throughout the season so hopefully all will be running their best at the end of October,” Thornton said. “The team knows what it takes to compete in our league and are willing to pay the price to do so.”
Thornton said the team’s weakness is just that he would like more depth within the team, but he doesn’t see big changes in his coaching strategy, stating that they’ll keep eating lots of ice cream.
“The highlights of last season were the girls’ team qualifying for the state championship meet and everyone including the boys’ team running their best races at the end of the season,” he said.