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Cougars big on experience, expectations
The Central Kitsap cross country season may have technically gotten underway earlier this month, but for many of the Cougar runners, its been going since the summer.
Its good, CK coach John Emery said. Weve got a great group of athletes. So far were having a good season and a good time.
With 56 runners out, the squad is about the same size it was last year. But with more than 100 runners from Ridgetop and CK Junior High schools and CKHS joining in the summer condition program Emery started, the team is looking even better (a handful of Olympic High students also participate in the program).
It amazes me, Emery said. The last two years, weve had about 110 sign up. Theres usually always at least 45 or more at a given practice.
The effort to organize the summer group earned Emery the first-ever Kitsap Gets Active award, bestowed by the Kitsap Gets Active Coalition, for his outstanding leadership in engaging community youth in healthy and active lifestyles, according to a news release from the Kitsap County Health District.
But for Emery, the real reward is seeing the program pay off for the kids.
Yes, very much so, he said. The summer conditioning program is really paying off across the board, not just with cross country. It makes them so much stronger when they go into soccer or volleyball or any different sport.
But it hasnt hurt his own team either.
Theyve been doing great, Emery said of his Cougars. Were comparing last years times to this years and each one has taken their times down fairly significantly (20 to 90 seconds).
Loaded with returners on both the boys and girls sides, Emery said this could be a very successful year for the CK program.
Leading the return for the boys are state qualifiers Shane Moskowitz and Rustin Winger. Cascade Herriott, Nick Pittman and Mark Zylstra also return.
(They know) what they need to do to get it done, thats correct, Emery said. That helps a lot. They know the warm-ups now, theyve got stretching down. Now they can put in maximum effort on their runs.
But thats not all theyre bringing back to the table.
And theyre leading the new ones, Emery said. You have returners sometimes that dont really help the new ones. Thats not the case with this group. And thats true on both the boys and girls side of the house.
Leading the charge for the girls are another pair of state qualifiers in Shannon Moskowitz (Shanes twin sister) and Brittany Siegrist. But they too are not alone as Maggie Crow, Allie Rue and Chelsea Raulsome also return.
Theyve been great mentors again to the other athletes, Emery said of the girls. And theyre building a very strong team as they do it.
Both squads are amped for the season, he said.
Both the boys and girls teams are pretty dedicated to make it to state this year. Thats the objective, Emery said.
And he believes its more than attainable.
I think they are, he said. Its very possible for them to accomplish that. This is a good year for us.
Lauren Stueven, Kasey Pinto, Christina Pung, Melissa Ratliff and Hilary Coupe will all have roles on the girls squad, while for the boys, Mark Milcic, Nick Wilson, Riley Stuenven, Easton Wright, brothers Cullen and Scott MacClennan and Derek Parrish all figure into the plan as well.
All that depth means CK should be able to challenge in the Narrows League.
As in past years, well really have Bellarmine and Gig Harbor that we have to look out for, Emery said. Were giving it a good shot, thats for sure.
But Emery emphasized that his team isnt worried about anyone else right now.
Im not too concerned about the other teams at this point, he said. Were still getting ready for league. This is not the time for them to reach their peaks.
And of course, theres one other reason to keep the focus close to home.
As long as we keep them from being badly injured, well be OK, Emery said.
The Cougars travel to the Vashon Island Invitational at 11 a.m. today.