CHILLICOTHE – It’s no secret that the Unioto Shermans and Zane Trace Pioneers have been continuously battling for the SVC girls’ cross country title for several years now.
It’s also no secret that these two teams have been, arguably, by far the two best teams in the Chillicothe area in their given sport.
Those facts, in all probability, will remain the same in 2014.
The Pioneers, who took first place in the conference in 2013, qualified for regionals and just missed qualifying for the state meet. The loss they suffered during the regional meet was by a mere ten points, which is equivalent to losing by a last second shot in basketball.
But the biggest loss they may have suffered could very well be their graduating class from last year where they lost four of their top seven runners.
“We’re the underdog this year,” said Zane Trace head coach John Williams. “We lost a little more than Unioto did last year and they’re already a tough team to compete with. They will be the team to beat this year but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. We will definitely be able to compete with them.”
On the other hand, the Shermans are looking to challenge the Pioneers and prevent them from a repeat performance of last season.
“Zane Trace has had a good program and has had tremendous success in the last couple of years,” said Unioto head coach Matt Paxton. “They won the league last year, placed in the state meet a few years back and have just continued to improve. When it comes to this year, they lost a little more than we did last year and, so far, we’re looking a little stronger. We’ll see what happens.”
The Shermans, who finished second in the SVC in 2013 also earned a second place finish in the district meet trailing one team: Zane Trace. Unioto then went on to the regionals where they finished 9th.
“If we can compete with Zane Trace, we might just win our first district title,” said Paxton. “When it comes to regionals, we have a great shot to qualify and I believe that we have the talent to qualify for the state meet, which would be the first time in school history in doing so.”
No matter the competition between each other, both Zane Trace and Unioto have set goals for themselves past the conference meets.
“We’re really hungry this year,” said Williams. “Other than beating Unioto, we want to qualify for the state track meet. That’s our long term goal.”
Paxton echoed that sentiment.
“We’ve made it to regionals 4 of the last 5 years, this team wants to get over the hump. We want to win the league and earn a state meet bid for the first time in school history. We want to make history,” said Paxton.
Here’s a breakdown each team around the area:
• Coach: Steve Semancik
• Key Returners: Shania Conley, Darius Harris, Cassandra Parker
• Key Newcomers: Farrah Bray, Kacey Woodbridge, Emily Fuller, Emma Lanning
• Goals for the Season: With eight teams now in the SCOL, the Cavaliers are looking for place at least third in their conference. They’re overall goal is to advance to the regional meet in the postseason.
• Coach’s Quote: “I think Shania Conley and Darius Harris are pushing to be the best runners on the team this year. This year it’s worked out very well with training partners and it gets a little bit competitive in practice but that helps out a lot.”
• Coach: Matt Paxton
• Key Returners: Kayla Harkins, Andrea Alcorn, Elena Knitt
• Key Newcomers: Haley Wright (transfer from Huntington), Autumn Mokan
• Goals for the Season: The Shermans are looking to capitalize off of a second place finish in the SVC in 2013. They have their sights aimed high at a conference title and the first state track meet qualification in school history.• Coach’s Quote: “Kayla (Harkins) is a very good runner and a very good leader. Andrea (Alcorn) is a great leader as well. She makes sure the younger kids know what they’re doing and helps them out so much. These two girls are the leaders of our team and will be instrumental in our success this year.”
• Coach: John Williams
• Key Returners: Kimmy Wolfe, Gracie Jossie, Alison Chin
• Key Newcomers: Madison Thunderland, Elise Brown, Haley Puckett
• Goals for the Season: After a first place SVC finish in 2013, the Pioneers aren’t looking to slow down. They believe that they can be a top ten team in the state and compete for the conference title.
• Coach’s Quote: “Kimmy (Wolfe) gives us great leadership and she could contend for a state championship individually. Alison (Chin) is already where Kimmy was last year so she could be a top fifteen girl in the state as well. Haley (Puckett) is kind of our wild card. She was second last year in the state in junior high in the 400. She could be our number three runner and if that’s so, we’re looking good.”
• Coach: Jeff Magill
• Key Returners: Ariel Sams, Brittany Moore
• Key Newcomers: Elizabeth Mullins
• Goals for the Season: With a new coach comes a new attitude and Huntington is no exception to this rule. The Huntsmen are looking to build a winning program and develop throughout the upcoming season. They want to be the best they can be at the end of 2014.
• Coach’s Quote: “Ariel Sams is a returning runner and she’s working on building up her endurance. Moore has a lot of potential as a sophomore. Last year she broke her foot but she has developed since then and has become a better runner.”
• Coach: Billy Dennis
• Key Returners: Emily Daniels, Sara Stewart
• Key Newcomers: Ashley Wihl, McKinley Trapp, Makayla Terry, Taylor Shaffer, Autumn Pierce, Harlee Cooper, Mackenzie Blue
• Goals for the Season: Westfall, under a new coach as well, is just getting into the swing of the things as most of their team is just now joining the team after participating in other sports throughout the summer. They bring in seven freshmen this year and look to compete as a team as they’re preaching togetherness.
• Coach’s Quote: “The freshmen girls stick pretty close together. They’re a pretty strong group. There’s not one standout, they work as a group. They all try to work hard and do everything that’s asked of them.”
• Coach: Ed Yates
• Key Returners: Angel Merk, Taylor Clarkson
• Key Newcomers: N/A
• Goals for the Season: After finishing 3rd in the SVC in 2013, the Warriors are only looking to improve. They also are looking to compete as a team as they take on Unioto and Zane Trace head to head.
• Coach’s Quote: “I expect us to improve on things from last year. I think we are already improving on our times in practices and as meets go on, we’ll get better. I expect us to do well and to compete as a team.”
• Coach: Emily Gray
• Key Returners: Brianna Kempton
• Key Newcomers: Brooke Mercer, Brittany Campbell, Mackenzie Arledge, Olivia Dresbach
• Goals for the Season: The Panthers finished 6th in the SVC in 2013 but have since turned the program over to a new coach in Emily Gray. They have set early goals of finishing in the top three within the SVC and qualifying for regionals.
• Coach’s Quote: “All of our seniors are new to the sport. We’re excited to see how they do. I think we will have a pretty strong girls’ team. Our freshmen have ran the past two years as junior high girls so they know how it works and will be able to contribute.”
• Coach: Michelle Coreno
• Key Returners: Shaniah Begley, Ruthie Wyant, Taylor Spencer, Bailey Reader
• Key Newcomers: Katie Stolzenberg
• Goals for the Season: The Redstreaks’ goals are to improve their times throughout the rest of the season. Ruthie Wyant missed the first half of the 2013 season and they’re looking forward to seeing what she can do with a full season under her belt.
• Coach’s Quote: “Shaniah Begley has been consistent every year. She’s worked hard, the girls look up to her and she’s definitely been the leader of the team. She leads by example.”
• Coach:Cheryl Knisley
• Key Returners: Emily Davis, Kolby Markko, Stepanie Stout, Savannah Leeth
• Key Newcomers: Livi Spradlin
• Goals for the Season: The Bearcats qualified for regional competition last year for the first time and they’re definitely looking to do that again. With Unioto and Zane Trace sitting at the top of the SVC constantly, the Bearcats are looking to give both teams a run for their money.
• Coach’s Quote: “Kolby (Markko) is our leader. She is very supportive and very encouraging as well as setting excellent examples for the rest of the team. She’s serious about running and that’s contagious.”
• Coach: Linda McCallister
• Key Returners: Olivia Mable, Jamie Welch, Jordan Prall
• Key Newcomers: Leta Heigley, Hannah Goodman, Kaylee Prall, Kiara Smith
• Goals for the Season: Waverly finished 2nd in the SOC in 2013 only to South Webster and will try and get over that hump to win a conference title in 2014. After, hopefully, winning a league crown, the Tigers will set their sights on placing highly in the district competition.
• Coach’s Quote: Jamie Welch, Jordan Prall and Olivia Mable are all captains on the team. They all had really good seasons last year. It’s in the air right now to try and be our team’s best runner, but as far as leading the team, my juniors will do that.”
*Multiple attempts were made to reach Paint Valley’s coach Cheryl Knisley, but none of our messages were returned.