Cards will rely on youth this season

Gibson hoping young runners can step up into key roles on boys and girls teams

BIG RAPIDS — Youth will be served this season for the Big Rapids boys and girls cross country teams as both teams will be looking for some younger athletes to step up in 2013.

After having the luxury of relying on some key veterans last season, Big Rapids coach Chase Gibson is hoping that some of the young talent the Cardinals have this season can step up and fill the void.

GETTING STARTED: Aliza Hengensbach (left) and Chloe Kinnally participate in a intrasquad run on Thursday. (Pioneer photo/Lauren Fitch)

Despite having younger teams for both the boys and the girls, Gibson said he does have some key returners coming back from last year’s squads.

“We lost a lot of people from last year’s team but we have some talented young runners,” he said. “We’re very young, but we do have six returners coming back between the two teams.”

One returning athlete for the boys team is Hunter Jacobs, who Gibson said figures to be the Cardinals No. 1 runner this season. Also returning for the boys are Noah Stauffer and Aidan Johanson.

Gibson said he was pleased with the offseason work he’s seen from Stauffer and Johanson heading into this season.

“Noah’s already PR’ed in a local 5K race this summer, which I was very happy to see,” Gibson said. “I’m expecting big things from Aidan as well. He progressed a lot last year and I think he has a lot to show this season. He’s been training with us all summer long and he’s looking pretty good right now.”

For the girls team, Chloe Kinnally returns after making it to the state finals the previous two seasons. Joining as returners are Kayla Chamberlain and Katie King.

“We’re expecting the same results from Chloe this season,” Gibson said. “Kayla finished out the season strong last season so I’m expecting the same things from here. Katie PR’d a lot last year and she’s our only senior between both the boys and girls teams.”

While the girls team has some key returners, Gibson said he has two freshmen who will play a big part in the Cardinals’ success this season.

He said Aliza Hengensbach is a young athlete who could challenge Kinnally for the No.1 spot for the girls and fellow freshman Kiara Cushway could also figure to be a key contributor for the team as the Cardinals’ No. 3 runner.

“Aliza is a very strong athlete,” Gibson said. “I saw her in middle school races and I’m excited to coach her this season.

“The last few weeks of Kiara’s training has been awesome,” he added. “She’s dropped quite a bit of time and she’s getting in shape, so I’m excited to see what she can do this season.”

Gibson will be able to see just how ready his teams are for the season on Saturday as the Cardinals open the year by competing at the Benzie Central Invitational.

“Benzie is a very flat and fast course and our kids like to race there,” he said. “We’re just going to go up to Benzie and have a good time and race fast and see where we end up.”

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