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Veterans to lead charge for cross-country

Experience is always key to success, and the 2011 cross country team for Unicoi County High School is chalked full of vets and newcomers alike.
“We have veteran runners back, (Nolan) Tankersley was our lead runner last year and he’s back,” head coach Gary Howard explained. “(Austin) Garrabrant ran strong for us, Chris (Christobal Razo) is having a great preseason and running strong for us. Taylor Lafever and Ryan Waldrop came up big last year.”
The experience on the boys side of things will be big for the crew this season.
“We have some new runners, but I think we will be a strong team this year,” Howard said. “Most of the boys have been here since their freshmen year so they’ve been running for three years now.”
One of the members of the cross country team will be looking to clinch a state berth this year, with Tankersley narrowly coming up short during the 2010 year.
“Nolan was one place from state last year,” Howard said. “We think things will look better for him this year.”
Cross country will be a new scene for the girls side, with five girls participating and taking part in their first year of being on the team.
“The girls are all new,” the coach stated. “Four of them are ninth-graders. Haley Adkins is the strongest runner of that group, thus far. She’s a junior but this will be her first year running cross country.”
Nothing wrong with a little variety in a cross country group.
The mixture of newcomers and veterans alike will be a key for the success of the team this year.
“We’re a combination of experience and lack of experience,” Howard explained. “We’re always working for the future but I think for the boys the future is now. We’re hoping to qualify this year for the state, and it’d be great to do that and keep the same runners here and continue to go from there.”
There was no shortage of runners for the cross country team this year, with coach Howard’s team getting an increase of student athletes to join.
“Numbers wise we’re double from last year,” he said. “We had one girl on the team running for us, now we have five. The boys last year, we had seven runners but we’re up to nine now. Numbers are good and participation is up, we’ve been running since the day school started and we’re anxious to get the season underway.”
With the season soon to commence for coach Howard and UCHS Devils, it could be a possible toss up in the conference when it comes to who will finish near the top.
“We haven’t ran a conference race yet,” Howard said, “but after next Thursday during our first meet of the season . Almost all the teams in the conference will run then and we’ll have a better grasp of how we stand in the conference.”
The Blue Devils will be participating in their first meet on Thursday, Sept. 15, at Sullivan North High School.
The life of a runner never gets dull, with meets always around the corner for a Blue Devil.
“After our meet at North, we will normally run about one to two meets a week,” the coach said.