The Altus High School boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams are ready to hit the ground running.
Coach Rick Patterson said he is excited to get the season started as he will be returning the bulk of his boy’s team who placed 14th in last year’s state meet.
“Coach (Rick) Patterson always has both boys and girls well prepared,” Athletic Director Todd Ware said. “He has some returners and some new runners coming in this year and overall I think we will be very competitive through the regular season. I would expect we would have some in both programs qualify and place well in state competition.”
The team will take a big hit this coming season as their eighth place overall finisher — All-Stater Alan Ortiz — graduated in May.
Instead, the team will lean heavily on the returning juniors Josh Baker, Jesse Benitez, Alan Palestino and Ryan Oden as well as the returning sophomore Adrian Aviles and incoming freshman Calvin Wagoner.
Each runner on the boy’s squad who is returning from last year’s team placed in the top 115, with Oden taking 57th and Baker taking 94th.
The boys are looking to sprint past the competition this year and improve their placing in the state championship — a meet they are confident they will return to.
“Obviously we lost a good one in Alan Ortiz,” Patterson said. “He was an all-stater the last two years, but the boys can be pretty good and go back to state. We’ll have to qualify in the top seven at regionals and hopefully we can do that.”
The girls’ team loses quite a few, but luckily retains three of its top four finishers from the regional meet last season.
Two of the top returning finishers from last season are seniors Grace Hernke and Chauncey Beckner, as well as juniors Olga Lopez and Autumn Goodwin, sophomore Emily Pickett and freshman Bethany Garrison.
Hernke, Lopez and Beckner all placed in the top 70 at the regional meet last season and although they will miss a few of their runners from that team, they are confident they can get to the state meet this year after falling short last year.
“Hopefully we can get the girls to state. We’ve got a pretty good bunch of a girls,” Patterson said. “We’re still kind of in a rebuilding stage for the girls, but Beth Garrison is a freshman and we have three or four pretty good eighth-grade girls coming up, but we have to wait a year on them.”
Both squads look to continue their competitive ways and hope to bring a state championship back to Altus at the end of the season.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.