It’s the start of a new era for the Salina South cross country team.
Travis Peterson takes the reigns of the Cougar program after the departure of coach Alan Hipp.
Peterson has quite a bit to work with in his first season with both the boys and girls squads at South. Both teams return seven runners with varsity experience.
For the girls, senior Anna Zuercher, juniors Melissa Cairns, Emilee Holloway and Brooke Keller, and sophomores Mikaela Johnson and Amy Nguyen all return. For the boys, seniors Jonathan Dominguez and Dalton Pittenger are back, along with junior Tristan Irish and sophomores Kyle Bergeson, Matt Berneking, Hunter Gagna and Matt Winters.
“I feel that we have some good experience on the boys and girls teams,” Peterson said.
Holloway is a returning state qualifier for the girls.
“I think that she can improve her times from last year and be in a position to be a strong finisher in every race that she runs,” Peterson said.
Zuercher is the lone returning senior. Peterson said Zuercher is doing a nice job of leading.
“I feel that we have very strong senior leadership and I also feel that Anna has the potential to be very competitive in every race that she runs,” Peterson said.
“Overall, on the girls side we should be very competitive as we have many returners with good experience.”
Irish returns for the boys team after placing at state last season.
“Tristan will look to be very competitive and should have the chance to be a very high finisher at state again this year,” Peterson said. “Tristan works very hard and provides very strong leadership for the rest of the team.”
Peterson is looking to his two seniors, Dominguez and Pittenger, for added leadership.
“We will be very young on the boys side and should see a lot of improvement as the season progresses,” Peterson said.
Peterson believes his team can improve quite a bit throughout the season.
“The biggest challenge is helping each individual athlete to find their peak abilities and helping them to be confident in pushing themselves to their maximum performance,” Peterson said. “We will be very young on the boys side, so experience alone will be an area of improvement as the season progresses. On the girls side, we will work hard to improve our depth, so that we can be seven strong on the varsity level on a weekly basis.”
Improvement across the board is key to accomplishing the season goals at South.
“The overall season goal is for us to be able to have a competitive squad, one through seven, on both the girls and boys sides by the time league and regional arrive,” Peterson said. “We would like to be competitive at league and work hard to give ourselves a chance at being state qualifiers.”
The Cougars open the season on Thursday, September 5 at Great Bend. The Cougars run at Bill Burke Park in Salina on Saturday, October 12.