Increased numbers, increased expectations for Ridgeland XC

This year’s Ridgeland High School cross country seniors include (front row, from left) Emily Scott, Logan Couch and Rosie Bautista. On the back row are David Kernea, David Ponce, Matthew Schaublin, Garrett Parker, Will Voyles and Joseph Brown.

The sport of cross country has always been a numbers game and, to that effect, Ridgeland is starting out the 2019 season ahead of the game.

The Ridgeland roster contains significantly more names than it had last year and head coach Bo Tinney said that he’s excited for the prospects of what that may mean for this year and for the years to come.

“We’re up to over 30 runners this year and we have 11 girls, which is more than double what I’ve had the last couple of years so it’s exciting,” he said.

Tinney said being able to recruit more kids to the sport is an exercise that starts in the classroom.

“I build relationships with my kids and I encourage them to be active,” he explained. “I’ve encouraged some of my soccer players come run with us and a few of them have, but part of it is that we just have a really positive community among our team. These kids have really just pushed it themselves. They want that cross country community to continue to grow, so they invite people to come and those kids are showing up.”

Tinney said his expectations are high for the Lady Panthers, who will be led by seniors Rosie Bautista and Emily Scott. Scott is her in second year in the sport and Bautista is in her first. Tonney said both runners are working hard to improve as runners.

Junior Macie Boren is a team leader who has been one of the Lady Panthers’ top runners for the past two seasons. However, she is being pushed in practice by the likes of returning sophomores Mary Scott and Sydney Finch, while another sophomore, Colleen Thomas, and incoming freshmen Cate Voyles and Katieann Thompson are bringing solid depth to the team.

The rest of the girls’ roster features juniors Trinity Deane, another returner, and Riley McBee, along with sophomore Paige Blanchard.

“I think our girls are going to be way more competitive, as a team, than they have been in the past,” Tinney said. “We’ve still got some work to do, but they could be dangerous come region time.”

On the boys’ side, four-year starter Will Voyles is the team leader and Tinney said the senior has stepped up to the challenge with comes with that title. Two more fourth-year runners, David Kernea and Logan Couch, love to run and are well-liked by their teammates. The other seniors include Joseph Brown, Matthew Schaublin and a pair in their first year in the sport, David Ponce and Garrett Parker.

Juniors, such as A.J. Walker and Beau Baker, also bring experience, while the rest of the roster features juniors Matthew Cole and Garren O’Toole, sophomores Camden Bain, Sam Dickson, Ben Lamontagne and Chad Leroux and some solid freshmen in Henry Holden, Sean Gifford, Kevin Schmelzer, Peter Tracy and Joash Williams.

“We’ll have some competitive guys, like we usually do,” Tinney added. “Like with our girls, we’ve got some competitive freshmen coming in. I’m really excited about it all. These kids just work so hard.”

While the goal of any team is to qualify for state, Tinney also said that there is the goal of simply improving.

“Our culture has to be one in which we’re doing our best every day,” he added. “We’re not making excuses and trying to dodge practice and we’re not trying to find a chance to walk or rest. We have to keep pushing ourselves through the pain and the things that pop up as a runner. To me, what it’s all about is creating that culture of ‘I’m going to do my best every single day’ and then the self-belief that comes along with it.”

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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