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Cross country returns to Nevis

Tom Stambaugh thought he was done with coaching when he retired as a teacher at Nevis last spring.

Some Nevis runners convinced him to postpone his retirement from coaching.

"I retired from teaching this spring, so I thought I was pretty much done," said Stambaugh. "We had seven or eight young distance runners in track in grades 6-8. We've never had that many. They were pestering me about cross country and I fell for it and the school was nice enough to add it back."

Nevis, which last had a cross-country program in 2013, will begin to rebuild the program with more than a dozen runners signing up to compete this fall. Even though the Tigers will run mainly in junior high races, Stambaugh likes the potential for the future.

"We have about 15 signed up, which is much more than I thought we'd have. We will be very young this year with most kids in 7th and 8th grade and no one over 10th grade," said Stambaugh, who will be aided by volunteer assistant coaches Doug Hanson and Jen McNamee. "Most meets our kids will be running at the junior high level. As a group, we know we have a very young core of runners. Our main goal is to see if we can help these kids attain the goals they've set for themselves. For some it is to get in shape for a winter sport and for others it's to take the next step in their path to make it to state in the next few years."

Leading the Tigers this season will be sophomore Michael Gunn and freshman Jack McNamee for the boys and eighth grader Izzy Wallace and seventh graders Molly Lindow and Jade Rypkema for the girls. Gunn competed in the 3,200-meter run and McNamee competed in the 1,600 run at the Section 8A track meet last spring.

Stambaugh is hoping to build the boys and girls teams into section contenders down the road and once again be represented at the state Class A meet. Bryon Schuldt was the last Nevis runner to qualify for state, capping off his high school career as the state champion in 2011.

"I see some really young talent. Nevis had a state champ in Bryon Schuldt, so we're going to try and see if we can't find some kids who chase the same goal," said Stambaugh. "I told the kids if they work hard and compete to their best ability, I would love to field a full boys team and full girls team for the section meet this fall. We will be near the bottom this year, but they know how young we are. I see enough young talent to think they could be one of the top teams in three years or so. I know that's a long way off, but the talent is here."