Heritage Hills cross country to be different


LINCOLN CITY — It’s certainly going to look different for both sides of Heritage Hills cross country this year.

The Patriots graduated both their No. 1 boys runner, Elliott Buechlein, and their No. 1 girls runner, Katie Winkler, last year. Both runners qualified for state as individuals, and the boys also graduated a couple of other key pieces in Wyatt Koenig and Owen Rahman.

“It’s very tough, and then you got a small squad — we’re at eight guys and six girls this year,” Heritage Hills coach Kurt Denning said. “We’re definitely not going to have (those) frontrunners in (past) years, either side.”

Still, Denning is pleased that his runners are working, that they’re working out, and that they’re great. He noted that sometimes, it’s not all about winning. It’s also about getting better and making gains, and Heritage Hills will see where it’s at by the end of the year.

He thinks there will eventually be somebody who steps up to be that consistent No. 1, consistent No. 2, for both sides. However, whoever is going to emerge on the girls side Thursday at the Forest Park Invite is anybody’s guess. Denning feels it could be wide open in that aspect.

The Pats don’t have any sophomore girls. It’s two seniors, two juniors and two freshmen. Denning likes what seniors Lauren Sisley and Michaela Gogel have done for the team.

“They are going out there leading by example, they are being a little bit vocal and they’re doing I ask from them,” he said.

Some runners on the boys side who look like they have been putting it together recently are freshman Aiden Mattingly and junior Pierce Lashley. Denning hailed Mattingly’s positive attitude. Lashley, meanwhile, was the highest finishing boys runner at last year’s sectional by coming in 11th place overall.

“(Mattingly) and Pierce train very well together,” Denning said. “And it really surprised me how close they are.”

Denning feels there could be an opportunity for some of his individual runners to get to semi-state and state, but they would have to stay healthy, with their first race just days away.

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