By Rob Patrick
Boys coach Steve Oury will be doing a lot of assessing today when the Bryant Hornets cross country team runs[more] in its annual intrasquad meet at 5:30 p.m. in Bishop Park.
That’s because of the nine runners that represented the Hornets at the Class 7A State championship meet last year, only two return, senior Brenden Guffey and sophomore Nick Ballew. Neither figured in the scoring.
“We have some great kids,” Oury said. “They’ve been working hard. They’re fun to be around. But, basically, we’re very young.
“We’re just going to see where we’re at,” he added regarding the intersquad. “There’s always going to be surprises. There’s always going to be kids that are going to step up in a race who don’t really show you much in practice. And vice versa. It’s just to kind of see who steps up and, once the lights come on, who’s ready to go out and race.”
A group of 14 sophomores form the heart of the squad. Along with Ballew, Oury sees Tyler Purtle and Clifton Hampton as 10th graders that figure to be in the running for the scoring quintet each week.
“Our top two returning runners from last year are not running this year so we’re trying to get these young guys to step up,” Oury said. “I think it’s a group of kids that, by the time they graduate, have a chance to have a lot of good things happen. This year, it’s going to be a learning experience. Basically, any success we have is something we can build on for the future.
“Tyler’s been putting in 40 or 50 miles a week,” the coach continued. “He’s looking really strong so I look for him to have a breakout season. He was hurt last year in ninth grade cross country but he had a good track season and he had a great summer of training. So he’s kind of been leading the way in workouts.
“Clifton played baseball all summer so he didn’t get a good summer of training but he’s talented so I think by the end of the season, he should be in the mix,” he added. “We have some ninth graders who have a great shot, Dru Wen, Connor Wilson and Mark Winn. They’ve looked really good in practice.”
Seniors Petey Alverio and Lance Smith may also be in contention for points.
“Petey has the ability,” Oury noted. “If he puts his mind to it, he can step up and really help us out.
“Lance has never run cross country before,” he mentioned. “He’s got a great attitude and he’s got some talent. The longer distance is new to him but he’s been tackling it. He loves to run and I’m really looking forward to see how he does in a race.”
Oury also said that junior Damian Kropp “has a good chance to help us.”
The team also includes seniors Forrest Fowler, Jordan Humphries, and Chris Oldfield along with juniors Connor Goshien, David Knauf, Luke Stripling, and James Tyhurst.
The sophomore group, along with Ballew, Hampton and Purtle is Spencer Adami, Trevor Delaney, Tony Garibay, Galen Heathcock, Alex Houpt, Alex Hunt, Dylan Masters, Austin Middleton, Blake Reed, Marc Reed and Marcus Seago.
The other freshmen are Ryan Ayres, Darren Cave, Justin Combs, Walker Creighton, Mason Delaughter, Jim Dellorto, Brady Gilleran, Christian Gonzales, Zaquery Hale, Tyler Latiolais, Cesar Rodarte, Antonyo Sanchez, Nicholas Schmidt, Nathan Stewart, Nic Townsend, Harley Westfall and Conner Wilson.
The teams will be split evenly for this evening’s competition with the winning team being awarded gift cards from Sonic.
“It’s going to be a chance to identify who are our top 10 or so runners,” Oury concluded. “It’s also going to give me an idea of how soon I might need to move some of the ninth graders up. I’d like for the ninth graders to, at least, run our home meet on the junior high team. After that, if we need to move them up, we will.”
The official season-opening meet will be the annual Bryant Invitational at Bishop Park on Tuesday, Sept. 13.