Confident Cats have high expectations for semistateOctober 16, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — Jasper cross country coach Kevin Schipp has a lot to be proud of after the Wildcats’ latest run in their regional meet last Saturday at Crawford County.
Not only did he have two runners finish in the top five for both the girls and boys team (Andi VanMeter and Jackson Miller, who took second and fourth overall, respectively), but both teams qualified for Saturday’s semistate meet at Brown County.
They will be joined by several other area teams and runners as well. Forest Park and Heritage Hills sent their entire girls teams, while Southridge (Brooklyn Tretter) and Northeast Dubois (Shelby Livingston) both will send individual runners.
On the boys side, Southridge (Dylan Bland), Forest Park (Spenser Wolf), Northeast Dubois (Nathan Schnell) and Heritage Hills (Mitchell Hopf and Nick Brinkman) are also all sending individual runners.
For Jasper, Schipp said it was some of the best work he’s seen from both teams all season.
“On the girls side, the team ran unbelievable, they ran a great race,” he said. “On the boys side, there were a lot of personal bests, just like the girls. They ran a great race, they were only 15 points out of second place. The girls were only nine points out of second place.”
But the Wildcats will need to bring their best once again if they hope to extend their run in the post-season.
Schipp said the training and preparation for semistate will be the same as it has been for the past three weeks, focusing more on speed work and shorter runs. It’s all in hopes that the runners can shave the precious seconds that could separate the best from the rest.
“Some runners are capable of cutting 20, 30 seconds, some maybe a little bit more,” he said. “We tapered more in the past, but this year we’re tapering a little less. So far we’re seeing the positive outcomes from it.”
Schipp also said the course is an element the teams need to take into account as they prepare for Saturday.
Schipp calls the Brown County course a faster cross country course, but notes there's a certain point where the course gets narrow and bottlenecks the runners. He wants his runners to work on getting out to fast starts in order to cement their places along the course and separate themselves from the pack.
“Our first two [girls] got off to a good start, but the rest of them need to work on getting off to a better start at Brown County for a few reasons,” he said. “Number one, you’re going to have twice as many runners, there’s going to be 180 runners in both races. The course bottlenecks a little bit before the first mile. So when you have that many quality runners on a course like that, you need a good start. I feel [last] Saturday we let some runners get away from us in the first 400 to 800 meters. We can improve on that.”
As for the runners themselves, the coach thinks a few of them are primed to come out once again and run new personal bests given the course and weather conditions. Schipp will be looking for everyone’s best in order to gain the edge needed to earn a top-six finish and have both teams advance to the state meet.
“That’s possible across the board,” said Schipp. “We’re in the ballpark in the top 10, but the top six move on, so we need to have our best races.”
In addition to VanMeter and Jackson, Schipp believes senior Dimitry Gordon and sophomore Kelsea Skorge are a couple of kids who are capable of a marked improvement at semistate.
However, he notes that everyone is going to need to do their part in order for the Wildcats to be successful.
“We’re going to have to have some girls that are in the 20s and more boys that are in the lower 17s to give ourselves a chance,” he said. “The good thing that both our teams have, we have two frontrunners that can put up low stick numbers for us. We just need to close the gap with the rest of the runners.”
But most of all, Schipp wants his kids to run loose and easy, and not overtax themselves early. The race might not quite be a marathon, but it’s not exactly a sprint either.
“Getting out strong but staying relaxed in that second half of the race [is crucial],” Schipp said. “Keep moving up in that second half of the race instead of staying stagnant. Keep closing the whole second half of the race is really important. Every place counts, every spot will matter.”
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