Bearcat cross country runners sign letters of intent
     2015-04-23      By Doug Harris    dougharris@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Doug Harris/Gering Citizen - Three top track and cross country stars from Scottsbluff High School sign their respective letters of intent to take their running talents to the collegiate level next fall. Bearcats (from the left) Shane Burkey, Matthew Barraza and Taylor Muncie all had outstanding careers running for their school. Head coach Jim Barker said they are remarkable kids both on and off the field. 
Three Bearcat track stars signed letters of intent last week at a ceremony at Scottsbluff High School. Shane Burkey will be heading to the University of Nebraska/Kearney, Matthew Barraza will be heading to the University of Wyoming in Laramie next fall, and their teammate Taylor Muncie chose to sign with South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City.

Athletic Director Dave Pauli said to the several dozen people who attended the signing ceremony that it was always fun to honor students heading off to college.

“These three have been outstanding students for Scottsbluff High,” Pauli said. “They have made many athletic and academic achievements during their time here.”

Taylor Munice, the daughter of Neal and April Munice, said she selected the School of Mines because she wanted to attend a smaller school.

“I liked the campus size,” she said. “It had a friendly atmosphere and it seems like a good choice.” Muncie said she liked the idea that she would be able to participate in track and cross country her freshman year. “The team seemed good so I am happy to be going there.”

Muncie said that she will compete in both track and cross country but her first love is cross country running.

“When I was at State last year I realized I had potential,” she said. “So I started looking at some college programs.”
Muncie said she was going to miss being a Bearcat. “I look up to our coaches and I’ll probably miss them the most, and cheering at football games. I’ll miss running with the team and I will miss my teachers.”

She said she plans to major in Engineering while in Rapid City. “This season will be my last State meet and I hope all goes well,” Muncie said. “Hopefully I’ll be All State and I’d like to see our relay team get there.”

Matthew Barraza, the son of Mary and Steven Barraza, told the group he hoped to make as much an impact as he could running for the Cowboys in Laramie. “I want to be a scorer,” he said. “I want to compete against Division 1 records. I work really hard and set my goals high. I think I’m capable.”

Barraza said he selected UW after a visit to the campus.
“Laramie did it for me,” he said. “It had a home atmosphere. It was friendly. The coaches were welcoming and they treated me like family.”

Barraza said he plans to major in Kinesiology and keep his main focus on track. “I will run cross country too as I like distance running.”
Matthew said he was going to miss his friends and his team after graduation. “My best friends are on the team. I’ll miss my family. I will miss the coaches here too. They’ve been a huge part of my life. I’ve had the same coaches since 7th grade.”

He added that a distance runner has to have their mind set they can win and that it requires confidence and guts for a 1,000 meter race.
Taylor agreed with him saying cross country is just about as taxing mentally as it is physically.

Matthew hopes to excel in the 5K, the Mile, and the 1,600. “The 1,600 is my favorite,” he said.

Shane Burkey is the son of Kim and Marlyce Burkey. He told the group he selected Kearney because the coach seemed nice and he was familiar with the school because his older sister went there.
“Kearney seems like a nice place,” he said.

Burkey confessed that he is normally nervous before any race but that he had confidence in his ability.
“My goal is to finish a good season now,” he said. “In college I want to contribute to the team as best I can.”

Of the Bearcats Shane said he felt lucky to have such great coaches. “We have all learned a lot from them,” he said. “Winning is nice. It was fun to be on a winning team.” Shane has not declared a major yet. “I looked at a few schools but Kearney was basically my first choice.”

He said his favorite event is the 5K. “I can utilize my strength.”
After the signing head coach Jim Barker said, “I feel proud of the three of them. They have had stellar careers the last four years. Shane and Matthew have been part of three State teams, and Taylor ran at State four times.”

Barker noted the Bearcat boys placed first at State last year and the girls came in second. He said he expects good results this season.
Of the signing athletes he added, “They will be missed but I am excited for them and proud of them. They are all sharp in the classroom. They are just great kids. I am happy to see them moving on to bigger and better things. It has been an outstanding four years.”
On May 2 the coed team will head to the Class B6 District meet in Ogallala and in late May they will head to Omaha for the State contest.

“This is a 12 week season,” Coach Barker said. “We have six more weeks to go. The heart of our season is still coming up. We’ve only gone to three meets so far.”

Barker said he has been a track and cross country coach for around 40 years and the Bearcats merged into a coed program two seasons ago.
“These three kids have been champions at State and in the Western Conference and the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference almost every season through high school. I’m sure they’ll do great competing at the college level.”

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