Bearcat harriers have high hopes again
     2014-09-11      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Terry Gaston/for the Citizen - Members of the Scottsbluff cross country teams are, for the girls (front row, from left) Reegan Green, Maddie Barraza, Kaylee Bentley, Whitney Riesen, Tayler Gipe, Krista Holzworth, Brenna Mitchell-Martinez, Eliana Hernandez, Abby Tygart, Vanessa Nordiega, Taylor Muncie, Shayleigh James, and not pictured are Mana Garcia and Claire Holsinger. For the Bearcat boys, (middle row) Christian Arellano, Thomas Leach, Josh Hergenreder, Alex Tikalsky, Ramon Chavez, Alonso Lopez, Tre Noe, Travis Zeiler, Jesse Jaramillo, Chase Osland, Cade Witmer, (back row) Collin Maag, Shane Burkey, Matthew Barraza, Eli Hutt, Matt Richardson, Sam Willis, Blake Nikont, Ryan Fox, Noah Hergenreder, Taylor York, and not pictured is Robby Simmons. 
If the Scottsbluff cross country teams’ results in last week’s season-opening Gering Invitational are any indication, then the Bearcats are in for another successful fall campaign.

With the boys led by the now senior, two-time individual state champion Matthew Barraza and the girls paced by senior state runner-up Taylor Muncie, the Scottsbluff teams swept the team results with those two runners winning their respective races.

Jim Barker, who is beginning his 27th season as the Bearcat boys’ coach and third as the girls’ director, said his biggest blessing is depth – a factor he hopes will get the Scottsbluff teams improve each week in building toward peaking at the state championships in Oct. 24.

Barker said the Bearcats are blessed with “strength in numbers. We have 22 boys and 15 girls on the team. Our depth is outstanding, plus we had a very successful summer of preparation. Tradition is also a strength.”

The boys have a lot to live up to from a state-winning season in 2013 that included a perfect team score (top four finishers) in the Class B district meet and a record score at the Liberty Bell Classic in Littleton, Colo. – where the Bearcats return Friday to defend their title.

Besides Barraza, who set a Scottsbluff record by running the first sub-13-minute time at state, the Bearcats return senior state placers Shane Burkey (11th) and Eli Hunt (49th).
On the girls’ side, returning along with Muncie from last year’s district runners-up and 11th-place state finishers are juniors Shayleigh James (47th at state) and Claire Holsinger (51st) and seniors Vanessa Avalos (80th) and Breanna Mitchell-Martinez (87th). Sophomore Abby Tygart also returns with varsity experience.

“We can always work on getting faster and closing the time gap between our scoring runners,” Barker said of both teams. “Also, improvement in mental toughness and buying into the team concept.”
The Bearcats will host their annual meet, the Panhandle Classic, on Sept. 23 at Scotts Bluff Country Club.

From there, they look to focus on their building toward state with the Kearney Invitational on Sept. 29, the Western Conference meet at Sidney on Oct. 4, the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference meet at Hastings on Oct. 10 and districts at Ogallala on Oct. 16.

“We have extremely high expectations,” Barker said. “Our team goal is to qualify both boys and girls teams to state and ‘save our best for last.’ Each meet is a stepping stone to state; we expect to get faster week to week.”

Scottsbluff schedule
Sept. 5 Gering Invitational
Sept. 12 Liberty Bell Classic at Littleton, Colo.
Sept. 13 Chadron Invitational
Sept. 23 Panhandle Classic at Scotts Bluff Country Club
Sept. 29 Kearney Invitational
Oct. 4 Western Conference at Sidney
Oct. 10 Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference at Hastings
Oct. 16 District B-4 Championships at Ogallala
Oct. 24 State Championships at Kearney

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