Bland returns to coach alma mater SouthridgeJuly 9, 2020
BY COREY STOLZENBACH
It wasn’t long ago that Chase Bland was where his runners are going to be — competing and representing Southridge during cross country season. He was an All-Pocket Athletic Conference selection all four years, making first-team honors his junior and senior year. Bland also made it to semistate his final two years of high school.
Now, the 2016 grad is fresh into the job five years later after his senior cross country campaign as the new head coach of his alma mater. Former head coach Steve Surgeon stepped down, though Surgeon said he is still volunteering when he can. Bland told The Herald July 2 that he got the job two weeks prior.
“The program gave a lot to me, helped me get to where I ended up being in college and helped me ultimately fulfill my dreams of running in college (at Kentucky Wesleyan University) and go to the next level,” Bland said. “I had great coaches along the way, and everybody in the program gave a lot to me, not just in the cross country program, but at the school, in general.”
Bland thought he owed something to Southridge. It gave him so much, and he wanted to give some of that back. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to take the position because he just got out of Kentucky Wesleyan, and has a full-time job at Ellison Distributing. However, the opportunity was there, and he knows he can lean on his former coaches to help him out.
He also will be coaching his younger brother, Dylan, in his senior year. Dylan made it to state as an individual in 2019, running a time of 17:00.4 and finishing 118th.
“It’ll be interesting to see how kind of the dynamics of that play out,” Chase said. “Dylan’s a really good kid. I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother. He is, and I know he’ll support me and 100 percent respect me as a coach.”
Chase knows it’ll be fun coaching Dylan, but he’s already given his younger brother coaching throughout the years, and he imagines it won’t be as much of a transition for him. He wouldn’t say what his younger brother’s goal is for state. Chase isn’t overlooking a tough race at semistate, but is confident Dylan can get back to state.
“Let’s just say he gets back to state, I think he’ll run a heck of a lot faster than what he ran last year,” he said.
Fellow senior Cameron Giles will be joining Dylan again this year. Giles qualified for semistate as an individual in 2019, running a time of 18:44 and placing 160th. Chase knows Giles is one of the top runners Southridge has had through the years, and knows Giles has been putting in a lot of work this summer, since he’s also close friends with Dylan.
Chase believes Giles is definitely capable of making it to state this year, but whether he actually goes depends on how much work he puts into it and how much he trains. It’s just a matter of convincing Giles that he can do it.
“Cam kind of gets overshadowed sometimes by Dylan, but Cam never gets upset about that, ever,” Chase said. “Cam’s a good kid, and I’m excited to work with him a lot. I think we can improve on a lot of things.”
He thinks the boys team could be really good, citing Dylan and Giles as the two best runners Southridge has had at the same time since he’s been in the program. Chase is hoping for a solid showing from his third through fifth runners in 2020 to round out the top five. He thinks Southridge boys can make some surprises.
The girls graduated their No. 1 runner, Brooklyn Tretter, who went to semistate in 2019. Southridge will most likely have either Emma Blessinger or Kelsey Wibbeler, both freshmen, and also cousins, as its top girls runner this year. Chase said most of his girls team will be freshmen. It will be an adjustment to go from 3K to 5K, and he’ll be stressing the importance of building a base during this time.
Still, he thinks the runners he’ll have on the girls side are tough.
“This is a group that I’m super excited to coach,” he said. “As a first-year coach, I couldn’t ask for a better first-year team, I think.”
Chase’s focus going into the season is building the strength and having a foundation for 2020. He’s looking for his runners to build a base at this time, as the goal is to prepare for the October competitions.
Southridge’s first run of the season is currently scheduled to be the Kentucky/Indiana Border Clash in Owensboro. This race is scheduled for Aug. 18, though Southridge athletic director Scott Buening told The Herald last week that could change because the school is still focused on finalizing and confirming its fall sports schedule.
The first-year coach likes to refer to the early races as “rust busters,” with nobody having any idea what is going to happen the first race of the season.
“As long as they just show that they’re out there putting effort in, that’s all that I can ask that they just put everything they have into it,” Chase said. “That’s something at Southridge that our culture, we have in every sport, and I’m not afraid of that at all. The kids are going to give everything they have, no matter what.”
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