By JARED JERNAGAN
After a run to regional last year and no losses to graduation, expectation of a repeat could be high for Greencastle boys' cross country. But coach Mike Schimpf chooses instead to take it one meet at a time.
"We definitely have goals, as far as team goals. Everybody wants to win every meet they run. We would love to win the county and conference; those are important. We'll just have to see how everything stacks up come sectional time," Schimpf said.
Looking back on the 2007 campaign, Schimpf takes pride in the accomplishments of his young team and acknowledges that the program's success lays a foundation for this year.
"Last year was a really pivotal year, I thought. We didn't have a single senior on the team, and they really had to work to get where they got, not that you don't always need to work hard. But there was just this need to be successful in order to lay a nice foundation for this year," he said.
But entering 2008, that foundation is a mixed batch. On the positive side three all-WCC runners return for the Tiger Cubs. Seniors Ben Wilson and Jordan Lewis and junior Ryan Gillespie all don the purple and grey again this season.
On the other hand, gone are Nick Stevens and Austin Woodall. Stevens, who was an all-conference runner, was also a state finals qualifier in swimming. He will spend the fall preparing for his senior swimming campaign. Woodall has been struggling with his asthma for more than a year, and will not be running this fall.
The coach said he misses the contribution of both young men, but understands and respects their decisions.
"I hated losing a couple of the older guys," Schimpf said.
But Schimpf remains positive. He has had seven runners out practicing this fall, and hopes to have senior Bo Walker rejoin the team when he recovers from a foot injury.
The trick so far has been orchestrating practices for three all-conference runners joined by four brand new runners.
"You always have to figure out how far you can push them without hurting them. That's not the goal right off the bat to get people out here and get them hurt," Schimpf said. "Sometimes, especially with younger guys, you don't know where their boundaries are yet.
"The older guys, it doesn't hurt them to break into it easy," he added. "We can always break into things a little bit faster or a little bit longer on them. They can do another rep, or something."
Among the first-timers is senior Kyle Harlan. Although Harlan may be knew to the longer distances, Schimpf has been pleased with what he's seen.
"Kyle came out for track last year and did a really good job for us in the 4X800 relay. He looks pretty natural out here," Schimpf said. "I think he'll run pretty successfully out here."
Harlan is joined by sophomore Walter Chiarella and freshmen Ryan Stevens and Nathan Eubank. Schimpf had no complaints about the work and improvement he's gotten from the younger guys so far.
"I'm pretty pleased with what we have. I'm looking forward to seeing how far these guys can push themselves," Schimpf said. "If they stay healthy, they should be relatively successful."
One advantage a coach in Schimpf's position has is time. With cross country starting a week and a half after some of the other fall sports, the coach has had time to sort out what his new runners can do.
"We have adequate time to get it together and figure things out," Schimpf said.
"I'm looking forward to them doing well, and ideally we'll be able to do well throughout the season. We'll just have to wait and see. With the fresh faces and the old guys, it's an interesting dynamic," he concluded.
GHS opens the year when it hosts Cloverdale at 4:30 p.m. today at the DePauw Nature Park.