ST. GEORGE – Pine View lost five of its seven runners from last year’s boys cross country team that took third at state.
But the Panthers say that by no means will this be a rebuilding year.
“A lot of people would expect us to take a step back, but this will actually be one of the best teams I’ve ever coached,” PV head coach David Holt said.
The Panthers’ fortunes start with the leadership of Cameron Brown and Nick Hill.
Brown, a senior captain, has been pushing the team in summer workouts.
“Cameron’s had an amazing summer,” Holt said. “He’s probably been one of the best captains we’ve ever had.”
Hill, meanwhile, is probably the Panthers’ strongest runner. He had an impressive spring track season, and Holt said Hill will be one of the top two 800-meter runners in the state this spring. His 800-meter skills transfer easily to cross country.
“Nick works really hard, and he’s a great leader,” Brown said. “He’s definitely going to be in the running for the state title.”
Brown and Hill have helped the team work not just hard, but also for each other this summer. Holt said he has 11 quality runners competing for seven spots, but they have the right approach.
“They realize they have to do it together,” Holt said. “They’ve been competing with each other, not against each other.”
Logan Hirschi and Jason Hall are two runners who have made great gains in recent months.
Preston Warby, Dallen Gillespie and Jake Taylor also figure to be in the mix for what should be an exceptionally deep Panther squad.
On the girls side, Meskerem Stucki will be the Panthers’ leader. Stucki immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia a year and a half ago. She left trying circumstances back home to be adopted by a family here.
In unfamiliar circumstances, Stucki found comfort in a familiar activity—running. She’s been a mainstay of the Panther track and cross country teams ever since.
“She’s developed into a really awesome runner,” Holt said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see her pushing the other top girls in the region for the region title.”
Nicole Heinrich is the latest in a long line of Pine View runners in her family. Holt said he has had at least one Heinrich on his team all 10 years he’s coached at Pine View.
“She’s just done an amazing job of bringing these girls together,” Holt said.
Sophomores Josie Bushar and Alli Peterson will add depth to the squad. Bushar and Peterson have dropped activities they did last year to focus on cross country, and Holt said both have seen improvements as a result.
The Panthers realize they have work to do to get where they want to be, but they are putting in the hours.
“We’ve just go to do what we’ve got to do, and hopefully it pays off,” Brown said.