Mike Hankins figures he’ll know a lot more about Clovis’ cross country teams after today’s invitational at Ned Houk Park.
CHS will host about 10 schools in the event, including District 4-5A rivals Carlsbad and Hobbs and Texas panhandle power Hereford. The varsity girls race is set for 4 p.m., followed by varsity boys competition at 4:30 p.m.
“We’re going to be running with some quality people,” said Hankins, who with Billie Merritt assisted Mark Bussen with last year’s teams before flipping roles with him. “I’ve always been a fan of what Hereford does.”
Both Clovis squads have experience coming back. The boys finished 11th in Class 5A state competition in November, while the girls were 13th.
Seniors Justin Netcher and Justin Kyle lead the boys. Other runners today for the Wildcats are slated to include juniors Ben Reed, Devin Bhakta and Jaron Morgin and sophomores Colton Dent and Kenen Bussen.
Senior Izzy Miranda will help this season, Hankins said, but is splitting time with soccer and is participating in that sport this weekend.
“They’re the two leading boys, along with Izzy,” Hankins said of Ketcher and Kyle. “They come out every day and give us that leadership. The work ethic is good, and they do the extra things we ask of them.
“The boys are an incredible group to work with. They don’t complain; they just come out and work, and I think that’s going to show up this year.”
Netcher, who led the Cats with a 20th-place finish last year at state, said his goal is to cut his personal-best time of 16:30 down to around 15:20, which would be a school record.
“Justin Kyle is right there with me,” he said. “We like to push each other. That’s pretty much how it was last year.”
For now, he said he wants to break the 17-minute mark in today’s meet.
“I think we’re going to have a very good year,” Ketcher said.
The girls were buoyed by the addition of junior Tara DeWitt, a sprinter on the track team who has given talented senior Caitlin Waters a strong push in practice.
Other runners today for the Lady Wildcats will be seniors Callie Bunch and Kayla Merritt, junior Anica Chairez and freshmen Kyra Bussen and Gladys Miranda. The two freshmen are also splitting time with soccer.
Waters ran 20th at state last year in 20:11.15. Merritt, Bunce, Chairez and Bussen also competed in the state meet.
“Tara is definitely a great addition to our team,” Waters said. “She pushes me every day.
“I really hope we can all work together as a team. I really just want to perform to the best of my ability.”
Behind them, Hankins said he hopes to remaining runners can step up.
“We’ve got to fill the gap (behind the top runners),” he said. “In cross country, it’s important not to have big gaps between runners, and our goal this week is to close that.”