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Chatting with Villa Grove cross country coaches about the season

By Tony Hooker
Coaches Jim Kestner and Jacob Griffith continue to grow the cross-country programs at VGHS, and Coach Kestner recently sat down for a look at this year’s high school squad.

How has the team adapted to a regular off season and  preseason workouts?  Anyone standing out to you?

Our season started pretty similarly to last year. Cross country was one of the few sports that had a close-to-normal season. The biggest changes were in sizes and formats of meets, so practices went on as they typically have. Four of our girls went to state in track in the 4×800, so I’m excited to see how they carry that performance to cross country this year (Kyleigh Price, junior; Madison Logan, junior, Emma Buesing, junior, and Hailey Stutz, senior). I’m also excited to add two freshmen who came off a second-place sectional team last year as 8th graders (Kurt Zimmerman and Chase White).

Who are key returnees from a year ago?

Emma Buesing rose to be our fastest runner on the girls’ team last year, and I’m looking forward to her using her added experience, strength, and endurance to this year. She and the other girls from the 4×800 track state qualifiers have run on my teams since jr. high and will be fun to watch!Caleb Wiessing ran as a member of our fitness squad last year, and I’m excited to have him back on the competition team this year, providing valuable leadership to what is a very young team.

Who are key losses?

As the coop ended, we lost the Heritage runners, who have the potential to make that team a real contender for championships at every level over the next couple of years. On the positive side, we have more Villa Grove runners than we’ve had in several years, so the sport continues to grow! 

Are there any newcomers who you’re expecting to contribute at the varsity level this year?

In addition to Zimmerman and White (mentioned in question number 1), I’m excited to add Scarlett Howard, who came in on our fitness squad but is already pacing herself with many competition runners on our team. She has a great attitude and some promising potential.

What are your season expectations?

As always, our season will be a success if every runner – competition and fitness – improves. I’m hoping we can compete for a conference title with our girls’ team (we placed 3rd last year) and hoping to get some top 10 performances there from a few of our boys and girls.

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