By TERRY GROOVER
For Rodney Zimmerman and Matt Parent, the 2019 cross country season offers lots of potential.
Zimmerman, who leads the girls’ team, and Parent, who is charge of the boys’ squad, both describe their teams as being young.
Young, however, does not mean inexperienced.
The girls’ team brings back two state qualifiers while the boys’ team has several runners with plenty of experience, including several incoming freshmen who did not lose a race last year.
Both coaches say they are excited.
Elora Jones and Avery Stanley will lead the way for the girls. Both were state qualifiers for the Millerettes last year.
Jones finished in 32nd place at the state meet while Stanley placed 82nd.
Zimmerman said the two will lead a quartet of returning starters, while at least three new runners will be in the varsity mix.
“We’re adding a pretty talented group of freshmen coming in,” he said.
Zimmerman said the team will be really young, but very talented.
Zimmerman said it may be the most talented team that Yukon has had in several years.
That is saying a lot. Yukon has qualified its entire team for the state meet three of the past five years.
The team does not have any seniors.
Zimmerman said the team, which is currently working out three days a week, came into the season in decent shape and that is one reason to have hope for a return to the state meet later this year.
“Overall, I have several I am happy with. We have a few who are a little behind, which you expect. Hopefully, we’ll get them caught up before school starts and we will be on track,” Zimmerman said.
“I want to qualify a team for state again. That is always going to be our goal — to have our varsity seven at the state meet together. I think we will be able to do that,” he said. “If everything pans out the way I think it can, we will have a really competitive state meet where we can finish higher than we ever have before.”
The first meet of the season is expected to be Aug. 30 at Carl Albert. Their first live action, however, will be against in-county rival Mustang about a week earlier for a 2-mile dual.
Meanwhile, Parent said the Millers will be just about as young as the girls’ team with only two seniors returning to the team.
“They were varsity runners last year, so there is a little experience there,” he said.
Those returning seniors are Seth Cortez and Kyle Crow. Another runner back is junior Cade Pope.
“Last year and this year, we’ve had quite a few of these incoming freshmen that are really good cross country runners,” he said.
Those runners have lost very few races over their careers, and look to continue that tradition, Parent said.
“They’ve won the conference meet three times and this group coming in didn’t lose a meet last year,” he said. “They’ve got a high running IQ. A bunch of them have been running throughout the summer with each other.”
Those incoming freshman will have to adjust to a distance change.
Last year, they ran two miles. At the high school-level, they will run 3.1 miles.
“Right now, it looks like we could have as many as 10 or 11 people all running the same times and competing for the same spots. It’s going to be a little bit before we get a lineup that is set,” he said.
That’s good news, Parent said.
“I will have to move people in and out of JV and varsity and give people a shot here and there,” he said. “It will be different than it has been around here for the last couple of year where things are pretty much set.”
The coach said his goal is to get everyone to push each other so they all improve.
“You cannot be comfortable and run cross country. You cannot run in a comfort zone. If you are, and you’re comfortable running, you aren’t ever going to be the best you can be. You have to get out of the comfort zone,” Parent said.
Last year’s team did not make the state meet, although there were individual qualifiers.
This year’s goal, he said, is to get back to the state event.
“This year, we’re going to have to do it with a lot of young guys,” Parent said.