Cross country notes: Andover girls headed toward new territory
The Andover girls cross country team doesn’t have much tradition at the state meet, but a first-year coach and two newcomers have the Trojans thinking they can start one this season.
Justin Hill, from Kansas City, is the new coach and is still learning the ins and outs of the area, but this much he knows: freshman Carly Flake and sophomore transfer Nikki Zielinski are two of the best runners in the area.
The duo made their debuts last weekend at the J.K. Gold Classic, where Flake cracked 16 minutes in her first 4-kilometer race to take second and Zielinski was fourth.
“We’ve already started talking about what we need to do to get the team into state,” Hill said. “The girls are really excited about the possibilities.”
That idea would have seemed preposterous in any of the last few seasons, but Andover suddenly has the components to compete for a state bid.
Flake and Zielinski, who share a friendly rivalry, are enough to put the Trojans in the conversation, but three more runners must emerge to make a state berth possible.
Hill expects one to be junior Keegan Hanson, who individually qualified for the Class 5A meet last season. Hill also said there are some freshmen and sophomores that could potentially help fill those roles.
“Packing up our 3-4-5 runners will be our biggest concern,” Hill said. “If we can pack those girls up, then I think absolutely we will be challenging for that right to go to state at the end of the season.”
Andover will compete in the Wellington Invitational on Saturday.
West surprise — Junior Dominick Fonseca, a top-10 runner in Class 5A last season, was enough to make the West boys program relevant again.
Now he’s joined by capable runners who could give the Pioneers hopes of finishing in the upper-half of the City League and claiming a berth at the state meet.
“Our guys are pumped up,” said West coach Steve Couch. “They’re already thinking about going to state. I think the kids are beginning to think that anything is possible.”
Fonseca has won both of his races, first in Clearwater to open the season then at Valley Center on Monday.
But what has surprised the coaching staff is the depth of the team. Couch said he has seven runners that he would feel comfortable running in the final two spots on varsity. Every week in practice it’s a competition for those spots.
West will run next at the Wellington Invitational on Saturday, although it plans to hold Fonseca out of the race.
“What I love about our guys is that they run in a pack,” Couch said. “It’s so competitive back there and that’s only going to help the team out. We’re excited about what we could do this season.”