Cross Country Preview


By David Yon


Running across a fresh cut grass field and on to a muddy trail that snakes its way through a deep canopy forest, you can sense the subtle changes of season that signal cross country season has arrived. There is a little more blue in the sky, the sun sleeps in a little bit later each morning and every now and then there is a wisp of coolness in the air. Soon hundreds of high school athletes will test their courage in the mud, over the hills and through the sand. Gulf Winds Track Club supports these athletes both financially and by recognizing their efforts publicly. Last years’ GWTC Chenoweth Outstanding Athletes Award winners, Michael Joanos, Ryan Deak and Kara Newell are back and ready for big performances in 2000. Here is a quick look (there is lots more at in the prep section) at what to expect this year.

Since Gary Droze started coaching part time at Maclay in 1994 he has watched his teams win nine state championships, five in cross country and picked up a full time job. The boys are overwhelming favorites to win their third straight title this year, while the girls start the season ranked second and have a chance to win their fourth straight title. Chiles High is the new school on the block, but Coach Scott Gowan is quickly building a strong program, drawing on his experience from winning six straight boys track titles and one cross country title at Port St. Joe. He has a large stable of runners out this year and enough talent to take both his boys and girls team to state. New Florida High coach Gretchen Meyer will look to the group that won the state 4 x 800 relay championship to be the base for her girls teams. The boys begin the year ranked number seven in the state, after finishing fourth last year. Marilynn Wills (Leon) and Perry Shaw (Lincoln) are the Deans of Coaches in this area with over forty years of coaching experience, five cross country championships, two runner ups and several individual champions.

This is the year for the girls to break through the 18:00 mark. A real strong core returns from last year, including preseason 1-A All-Americans Kara Newell, Jennifer Emo, Anne Johansen (all Maclay) and Zita Magloire (Chiles). Allie Hunter (Lincoln) is not ranked in the 4A preseason list, but her 2:14.85 (800 meters) and 5:07.5 (1600 meters) made her the only Big Bend lady to make the prestigious Dye Stat 186 Elite Performance list and her potential is unlimited. On the boys side, Leon Senior Michael Joanos is a preseason 4A All-American who brings the fastest time (15:24) back from last year. Maclay runners Ryan Deak, Matt Katz and Joel Serna will try to challenge him for area dominance this year, as will Florida High’s Ted Terry and Jamaal Wilson, also preseason All-Americans, and J.W. Givens from Chiles.

If you want to see something really special, get out and watch these kids put on a marvelous show this year! Your first chance will be this Saturday’s Tom Brown Bash.