Cross country eyeing SWOC title

Posted on: August 15, 2016

In waning years of the Fort Ancient Valley Conference and the first few of the Southwest Ohio Conference, Little Miami cross country amounted to little more than a low rumble.

The Panthers fielded strong individual runners, including FAVC runner of the year Jennifer Knippenberg in 2008 and SWOC runner of the year Ian Thunhorst in 2013 and 2014. But team accolades were tough to come by.

Now, cross country has gone from a rumble to a roar.

After finishing the 2015 season with five varsity men’s runners on all-league teams and a women’s team that placed fourth overall in the conference, Little Miami cross country is experiencing a resurgence. Coaches Eric Bond and Jackie Engle are leading full squads of both men and women this year, and are eagerly watching the growth of the junior high program. With a expanding program and team awards stacking up, the men's team is looking to bring home the league title this year.

Q & A with Women’s Cross Country Coach Jackie Engle:

What are your goals for this season? 

  1. Top 3 finish at SWOC
  2. Top 3 runners first/second team all-SWOC finishers
  3. Qualify an individual for Regionals

Who will be your toughest opponents and why?
Ross has improved greatly over the past few years and has one of the region’s top runners and teams. Talawanda always has a competitive girls team and this year shouldn’t be any different.

Who are you looking to this year to be a leader/leaders for your squad and why?   
Sara Day and Savannah Henn are seniors this year and have been running for several years. They have experience in our current training approach and have embraced the work needed to improve.  They will lead the team this year and set the bar high.

Who are some players to watch?
Savannah Henn and sophomore Ella Hartman are returning runners who should make significant improvements from last year, competing for first team all-conference honors at SWOC in the fall. Lydia Vach has been a dominant jr. high cross country runner and will be running for the high school girls team, but will be splitting time playing soccer.  If she’s healthy, Katie Schuckmann is a rising freshman with Lydia and should also make a strong contribution.

What else should we know?
Overall the girls' high school team should continue making significant improvement over last year. We expect to finish in the top three for the conference. The returning runners should all make improvements and when combined with a very strong freshman group, the results should be better. 

Q & A with Men’s Cross Country Coach Eric Bond

What are your goals for this season? 

  1. Win SWOC Team Title
  2. Top 7 runners first/second team all-SWOC finishers
  3. Top 5 finish at Districts, qualify at least two runners to Regionals.

Who will be your toughest opponents and why?
Ross just barely beat the LM boys team last year at SWOC. Ross continues to show year-on-year improvement with their runners working hard. We will have to match their work ethic.

Who are you looking to this year to be a leader/leaders for your squad and why?   
Senior Ryan Honkomp and juniors Tejas Dinesh and Dawson Paul are our most vocal leaders and help motivate the boys team. Ryan and Tejas have worked hard over the summer with other boys on our summer conditioning program, while Dawson has been training in Colorado all summer.

Who are some players to watch?
The boys team will be deep this year, but Ryan and Dawson should compete for victories at several of the invites and for the SWOC title. If Tejas, Jacob Anderson and Jacob Boldman can capitalize on a good summer of training, they will also compete for top finishing positions.

What else would you like to tell me?
The 2016 boys cross country team should be good this year. The expectation is they will win SWOC. If they run to their potential they could qualify for regionals as a team. Individually they should collect several first place finishes. Team depth is getting better. We have several boys that had good track seasons in the spring joining the cross country team for the first time. They should solidify the 5 thru 10 positions that are so critical for having a competitive team. There are always some injuries in cross country, so running depth is key for where we want to finish. There is a good group of incoming freshman wanting to improve and help the team this year and in the future.

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