Young athletes must excel for HV to duplicate success

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Happy Valley boys track coach Don Verran knows that if his team is going to duplicate the third-place finish the Warriors earned in the state meet last year, it will be with young kids stepping up to the fore.
   "We lost a lot of kids," Verran said at a recent Happy Valley track practice. As far as returning kids, I have David Hughes back, but the rest of us are kind of young. It's going to be hard to duplicate that performance.
   The Warriors are a young squad, but Verran likes what he sees so far out his group.
   "We've got some good workers now, we're just inexperienced," Verran said.
   There's one guy on the team with plenty of experience. That guy has also had more than his fair share of state competition.
   That young man happens to be Hughes, the state cross country winner in Class A/AA this past fall.
   Hughes will now be favored to win the one mile and the two-mile in track, but Verran isn't giving Hughes the gold medal just yet.
   "Anything can happen," Verran said. "That's why you run the meets, and that's why people train for them. In other words, David was better on that day. There are other days in the year."
   But Verran still believes Hughes has a great shot in both events.
   "I think he has a real good chance in both events," Verran said. "He runs both of them pretty well. Last year, I think he gave (former Franklin Road Academy state champion Austin Weaver) a better run in the mile than he did in the two-mile."
   The Warriors have others who should contribute, including pole vaulter Codi Stewart and all-around performer Les Howell.
   Two other seniors, Jonathan Cochran and Wesley Craft, should help out in the distance events.
   Another senior, Lon Hendrix, will also help the Warriors out.
   The rest of the Warrior team is young and inexperienced, but Verran hopes to reload, not rebuild.
   "We don't like to say rebuild, we just reload down here," Verran said. "We're young, and it's going to take us awhile to get in there and do it."
   The HV girls will also be strong in distance events, led by Katie Williams and Shana Raines.
   Williams will compete in the one mile and two mile, while Raines, who happens to be a freshman, will run in the 800 and the mile.
   Williams brings a lot of experience to the track, as she finished third in the state in the two-mile last year.
   Both runners placed in the state cross country meet, so Happy Valley girls track coach Scotty Verran is very excited about what they can do.
   "Katie coming back leads us by far, especially in the mile and two mile," Verran said. "Shana Raines is also pretty tough."
   Verran knows that with Williams being one of the hardest workers around, the sky is the limit for the junior.
   "You can't ask for a better person, an individual athlete," Verran said. "She works hard and does everything you ask. She runs extra on her own. She goes above and beyond the call to do what she can."
   As for Raines, Verran believes there is a lot of untapped potential there.
   "I'm not sure how good she can be yet," Verran said. "I'm not sure she knows how good she can be. She's pretty athletic."
   The Lady Warriors are also looking fairly strong in the sprint races with Ashley Stewart, Ashton Irick, Audra Whisenhunt and Destiny Hodge.
   Kim Lane has been a pleasant surprise early on in mid-distance events, and is expected to score points in meets for the Lady Warriors.
   Whisenhunt, Carlene Hughes and Bethany Williams could all do well in the pole vault.
   Overall, Verran believes the girls squad is in a similar situation to the boys as far as youth.
   "We're young and trying to improve and trying to get some numbers out," he said.