Skyline head crosscountry coach Lynette Freeman, who will be assisted this season by Mike Neifert, is riding herd on close to 30 harriers this season— nice numbers for a 2A school.

Skyline head crosscountry coach Lynette Freeman, who will be assisted this season by Mike Neifert, is riding herd on close to 30 harriers this season— nice numbers for a 2A school.

With 12 boys and 4 girls running for the high school, and another dozen or so middlers joining the workouts, Coach Freeman has a good-sized group with which to work.

Also encouraging is the fact that most of the boys team returns intact. The T-Birds were HOPL champions last year, and were just one place short of qualifying for State as a team in a stacked regional. “With what we have coming back this year,” Freeman said, “we are setting our sights on a trip to State with the boys. I think there’s a good possibility.”

The T-Birds harriers kicked off their season with the annual Splash and Dash on August 16, a race sponsored by SHS XC in which competitors are refreshed by a variety of water features and activities. Something new this year, according to Coach Freeman, was the addition of a children’s play area that included Slip-and-Slides and so on. The feature proved to be quite popular, as many competitors reported that they wettest they got on the race was when passing through the children’s area where the kids delighted in soaking runners as they passed by.

The boys team will be led by two-time State individual qualifier Roman Ibarra. The junior is expected to continue to compete well this season. He should be a top-5 type runner in most of the races the Thunderbirds will face in this season.

Brother Tony Ibarra, a sophomore, should be right on Roman’s heels, placing high in team scoring as well.

Brothers Khaleb and Lucas Cason and Colin Kumberg round out the solid returners for Skyline. The other two varsity spots are up for grabs a little bit, with several returners who saw at least some varsity action last year vying for those.

One returner Coach Freeman has high hopes for is Bryce McKennon. A transfer to Skyline last year, McKennon was only allowed by KSHSAA rules to run JV, but Freeman thinks he will be able to move up to varsity this year.

Josh Moore, Garret Bell, Jarod DeWeese, Jared Shriver and Kendall Davidson are in the mix as well, with most of those having gotten the starting nod at least once last season. A new face is freshman Tyler Tobin, who enjoyed a successful campaign last year in Skyline Middle School crosscountry.

There aren’t as many girls out for crosscountry as there are boys, and the Lady T-Birds’ fortunes will certainly be affected by the loss to graduation of the outstanding Brooke Fisher. Still, the four girls on the squad will be working hard, and Coach Freeman has hopes and verbal commitments from a couple of girls to join the squad once school begins— which would provide some depth to the team.

Returners Miranda Ghumm, Madalyn Owens and Briana Neifert will be joined by newcomer Madison Tyler. The girls team is also the defending HOPL champion, and they hope to continue that success this season— but it wouldn’t hurt a thing if a couple more Lady T-Birds joined the team to aid in that effort. At some meets the Thunderbirds attend, only 4 runners might be scored for team placing, but in the post-season, 2A requires 5 runners to qualify as a full team.

With the large numbers at the Middle School level, the future looks bright for SHS XCl. The boys look poised to enjoy a dominant season, and the girls have some potential but numbers may be a concern.

As her team has gained a year of maturity, Coach Freeman intends to begin focusing more on team racing strategy this season. “We need to work on passing people at the end, no matter what position in the race we are,” Freeman explained. “Even if you’re not in position for an individual medal, if you pass some people at the end, it will help the team win. We need to develop more of a team mentality in our races if we’re going to be as successful in the post-season as we hope to be.”