Youth equals experience for Jags cross country
Usually youth and experience just aren't go-togethers. But the 2006 Mill Valley cross country team has seemed to have made an exception to the rule.
With an experienced team returning, which includes nine returning varsity runners -- four on both the girls' and five on the boys' sides -- six of those returnees are sophomores and only one is a senior.
"We got a bunch of them out last year as freshmen and they helped us out right away on the varsity level. Hopefully they'll keep that up," cross country coach Mark Chipman said.
Chipman is right when he says the sophomores made an immediate impact. The Super Stamina Six helped the Mill Valley to a league championship for both teams and three of last year's freshmen girls were a big reason they qualified for state.
The boys fell one spot short of qualifying for state, but both Jochens and Smith qualified individually along with the graduated Whim. Chipman's goal for the team this year is to get the boys' team to accompany the girls at the end of the season to Lawrence for the state meet.
For both teams to qualify, someone on both sides needs to step up and fill the void left by Gilbreath and Whim, the top runners and leaders for the Jags last season.
The leading candidate to fill Gilbreath's shoes is O'Hara, a junior who is entering her third season running varsity. After a successful track season last year, O'Hara should be the top distance runner in both cross country and track the next two years for Mill Valley.
"She's been one of our top runners every year and she's been real steady for us," Chipman said.
He labeled Jochens as the front runner to replace Whim as the top runner for the boys, but it's not as clear-cut as with the girls.
"The boys side I think will be pretty competitive. We should have three or four right up there. Eric (Jochens), Caleb (Smith) and Zack (McQuiston) kind of traded off second, third and fourth last year behind Whim. Those three will be our leaders," Chipman said.
The Jaguar's first order of business this season is to defend their league titles. The girls have won three straight and the boys won their third ever league title last season and Chipman expects to defend their crowns.
Whether the Jags can live up to their coach's expectations of defending their league titles and both teams making it to state this year, it will mostly depend on six super sophomores.