Head coach Kathy Hitz heads into her 14th season at the Pratt High School crosscountry helm, her 17th season overall, with a full slate of veterans returning to the squad.
Hitz will be assisted this season by Derek Liggett, who comes to PHS this season from Chanute High School. Liggett will also be the head track coach in the spring.
The Greenback harriers are nearly evenly split this year, with 10 girls and 12 boys on the roster. Only one Frog graduated last season, Kaylah Romine, but her absence will be felt. Romine, who is running at Hutch Juco this year, was individual regional champion and a state medalist.
Much of the rest of the regional champion, state-qualifying, girls team returns intact this season, however— along with the addition of some key newcomers. Nichole Moreland, Cassidy Cronister, Morgan Strong and Chloe Cannata will provide veteran leadership.
Talented sophomore Ruth Anthony suffered a horrific ankle injury at the state meet last fall, but if healthy will provide a lift to this year’s team.
Promising newcomers include senior Adele Loomis and frosh Halle Helfrich. Loomis moves over this fall to crosscountry from the tennis squad after enjoying an outstanding track season at middle distance last spring. Helfrich is an incoming freshman who has been impressive in early workouts, according to Coach Hitz.
The boys team also boasts the return of a lot of experience, with last year’s starting line-up all on the squad again this season. Last year’s top runners included Brendan Pribil, Joseph Loomis, Caleb Hitz, Josh Powell, Cooper Crump and Chance Reh. Zach Will could be on the verge of a breakout season this year, if early workouts are any indication, according to Coach Hitz.
Will Fellhoelter also has some experience, and though currently dinged up, could also figure in the mix. Positions on the squad are not guaranteed for the returners, however, as some of the incoming freshmen look like they might challenge for a spot. “For instance, Brody Cronister has been looking really good so far,” Hitz mentioned.
Hitz says her girls squad has their sights on winning league this year, after getting narrowly edged by Hillsboro last season. Both boys and girls teams have qualifying for state as a goal as well. “We want to continue to improve,” Hitz explained, “and if we do that, the rest will take care of itself.”
Hillsboro, Sterling and Hesston are some of the CKL schools PHS must contend with if they are to regain the league title.
“Things are going really well so far,” enthused Hitz. “We have a few kids a little bit dinged up—early season aches and pains and so on. But the kids did their summer training like they were supposed to, and they seem happy and ready to go this season.”
Page 2 of 2 - LMS starts crosscountry this year for the first time, which should contribute to the on-going success of the PHS program. Coached by Jenni Pelland under Hitz’s supervision, about a dozen Junior Greenbacks will be running distance this fall as well.
“Our girls team should be good again this year,” Hitz summarized, “but our boys team is going to surprise some people this year, too. They are going to be much improved.”