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Argylls' XC grows in numbers and athleticism

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

One of the first steps in building a high school cross country programs numbers is getting enough runners out to provide competition in practices and in meets.

Finding enough able bodies to score in meets has been an issue in the past at Madison-Grant, but not something coach TJ Herniak has to be concerned with in the 2019 season.

Herniak has seven boys and 10 girls out for his respective Argylls’ teams this season and along with the numbers a renewed sense of optimism. M-G’s cross country teams will feature all underclassmen when the Argylls compete in the Lapel Invitational on August 20.

“We’re excited about our numbers and we’re glad to see our program’s growing a little bit this year,” Herniak said. “What we’re going to do, I won’t know until we get out there for the first meet, but we’ve got a good group of kids so we’re excited about that.”

M-G returns five girls from last season with juniors Zoey Barnett and Lacey Mayfield, along with sophomores Chelsea Bowland, Riley Cass and Mary Mayfield.

Herniak credits Barnett and Bowland, both softball players, with getting junior Hannah Ogden and sophomore Chelsea Parker to join the team this season, while cheerleading and assistant track coach Shannon Powell helped bring junior Bailey Freel and sophomores Cassidy Stephens and Sami Meyer out to run for the first time.

“She did an awesome job of getting some of her girls to buy into the cross country program,” Herniak said of Howell. “With the girls program, it’s been lacking over the years ... It’s been two, three, four, five (girls) and we’ve never really had any more than that so to hit double figures this year pretty exciting for us on the girls side.”

M-G’s boys also return five runners with juniors Kaden Howell, Cole Hasty, Gavin DeDecker and Zeb Taylor along with sophomore Chad Harbert. Sophomore Kolby Alvey and freshman Jase Howell round out the Argylls’ roster.

“I wouldn’t say any of those guys are elite but a lot of those guys have a chance to be pretty decent,” Herniak said of his boys. “If we can get all of them to run around the same times, maybe as a team we can place halfway decently in some of the bigger meets.

“What we’re hoping for is that they just push each other and continue to make each other better each and every day at practice,” he continued. “They all run around the same (times) so hopefully we can build on that every practice and every meet.”

Kaden Howell and Hasty, both multi-sport athletes at Madison-Grant, were the top two boys for the Arylls last season. In fact, part of Herniak’s excitement for the season is because nearly all of his runners are in other sports, something that’s been essential at M-G.

“Cross country is a way for them to get prepared for those sports but also a way to stay in competition and and spend time with friends and have fun at the same time,” Herniak said. “Some of these kids that just came out have some potential. Cross country is kind of a mind over matter kind of sport. If they can be tough enough push themselves hard you never know what we could see.”