Springfield, Mo. (OzarksSportsZone.com) -- Last year the area boys cross country scene was dominated by a pair of teammates from Glendale in Chris Mooneyham and Spencer Haik.
Mooneyham now runs for the University of Missouri, which leaves Haik to carry the Southwest Missouri cross country banner on the boys’ side.
And don’t think Haik will take a step back just because his training partner and good friend is gone.
“It would be awfully wrong to assume that Spencer would not be as good if Chris (Mooneyham) was not there. That is absolutely not true,” Glendale head cross country coach Jeff Berryessa said. “However, if someone said is it easier? Yeah. It is a whole lot easier to have someone right next to you all the time of almost equal ability in a particular range of running.”
Haik finished third at the Class 4 State Cross Country meet last fall and won the Class 4 1600-meter title this past spring. The two athletes who beat him, Simon Belete and Mooneyham, are both gone this year leaving Haik as the prohibitive favorite.
But Haik is not resting on his reputation.
“Nothing is guaranteed. I told Spencer that,” Berryessa said. “He is not guaranteed to make the State meet; things happen and you hope they don’t.”
Glendale qualified as a team for state on the boys’ side last year and should return four of those runners in addition to Haik.
“I think they are improving and they have more experience,” Berryessa said. “I do see, particularly in a couple people, the opportunity to move up.”
Those returning runners’ improvement will help to keep Glendale in the mix all season long.
“We feel like if we have five runners that have some experience, it will give us a shot,” Berryessa said. “Honestly, that is you really can ask for in sports any time. The reality is that if you have a chance that is best you are going to get. The question is what are you going to do with that?”
The goal for both boys and girls is focused solely on what they can do come championship series time in October.
“We are going to put more emphasis in October than we ever will in September,” Berryessa said. “As far as I am concerned, meets are designed to gain some ideas, strategies and experiences and be able to apply that the next month.”
Haik’s goals in particular extend beyond just the state meet as he eyes postseason meets and national recognition on the cross country course.
“We are looking at Footlocker. If possible he wants to be stronger there (post-state meet). My point to him is that to be stronger there he needs to be stronger now,” Berryessa said.
The girls lost their only state qualifier from last season in Ellyn Atkinson. Atkinson finished 17th at the Class 4 State Meet.
Even with the loss of Atkinson, Glendale still returns a two-time state qualifier in senior Kaitlyn Cravens, but do not return much experience beyond her.
“She (Cravens) is the best representative of experience that we have, and we have a bunch of new kids,” Berryessa said. “It will be a real young group outside of Kaitlin.”
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