HUMBOLDT—The Humboldt high school cross country teams have a split narrative as the two teams enter the fall 2022 campaign. While the Cubs return the most experience in over a decade on the girl’s side, the boys face a rebuilding year after losing three of their top-four runners.
With 16-year head coach Eric Carlson at the helm of the program, backed by 11-year assistant coach Rob Myers, the Cubs will look to repeat, and hopefully improve upon, the success they found a year ago.
Led by now-graduated senior Drew Wilhite and then-freshman McKenna Jones, Humboldt claimed the Tri-Valley League championship on the boy’s side, finishing runner-up behind a strong Fredonia squad on the girl’s side.
Wilhite led the boys with average times of 18:06, posting a season-best 17:13.59 at the Osage City Invitational, followed a week later by a league championship run in 17:14.00. Wilhite would go on to a 56th place finish at the state meet after a third place finish at regionals.
“We lost a tremendous amount of leadership and talent on the boy’s side. This will be a rebuilding year with only three returning letterwinners,” Carlson said. “But, what the boys lack in experience, they make up for in potential.”
Unless Carlson can recruit extra runners once school starts next week, he expects just seven runners total on the boys side. With his lone state qualifier graduated, this will be the first time in eight years that Carlson does not return a runner on the boy’s squad with experience at the state meet.
Along with Wilhite, the Cubs graduated a pair of strong runners in Levi McGowen and Cooper Woods. McGowen put together an average time of 20:31, breaking the 20-minute mark twice. Woods chopped nearly four minutes off of his time over the season, finishing with an average of 23:06.
Anchoring the boys will be a trio of returning lettermen who finished toward the bottom-half of the Humboldt roster a year ago. Led by All-TVL pick and senior Peyton Wallace, junior Landon Bauer and Brigg Shannon will look to repeat what the trio of seniors did before them.
Wallace came in as the second-fastest runner for the Cubs in 2021, averaging a time of 19:43. Shannon and Bauer rounded out the varsity roster with average times of 23:45 and 26:10 respectively.
While the boys are facing a nearly fresh start, the girls are looking to hit the ground running as they return all of their top runners.
Jones, who finished in 59th place at the state meet, returns to lead the Cubs in the five kilometer races. The All-TVL sophomore put together average times of 22:48, including a season-best time of 22:20 at the league meet.
Jones was closely followed by her classmate and all-league teammate Anna Heisler, who averaged times of 23:24 across her season.
If things progress based on last season’s finishes, the pair of sophomores will more than likely be joined by a trio of experienced seniors in Lulu Melendez, Carsyn Haviland and Leah Mueller. Melendez averaged 25:50, Haviland crossed the finish line around 26:03 and Mueller finished at about 27:01.
“Our girls’ team is the most experienced team we have had since I have been coaching here,” Carlson said. “The seniors qualified for state when they were freshman, have multiple state individual qualifiers and have been league runner-up twice.”
The varsity lineup is not set in stone, however, as senior Brooke Yokum, junior Danica Modlin and sophomore Sophie Barlow could make bids for a letter.
With a history of Tri-Valley, regional and state success preceding them, the Cubs have plenty on their plate. But, with proper preparation and training, Carlson is confident his crew can continue the winning ways.
“We always have a goal to compete for the league title on both sides. If we can stay injury-free, we should have a good shot to compete for the league championship on the girl’s side, and the boy’s team title should be up for grabs this year,” Carlson said. “In addition, we hope to make a push for some team qualifiers for the state meet this year.”
Humboldt begins its season in typical fashion, opening the year on Thursday, September 1 in Garnett.
9/1 @ Garnett
9/8 @ Girard
9/13 @ Caney Valley
9/24 @ Lawrence
9/29 @ Central Heights
10/6 @ Osage City
10/13 @ Eureka (TVL)
10/22 @ TBA (Regionals)
10/29 @ Lawrence (State)