Updated: Aug 26, 2018
Laurel, WA - Another day of smoke here in Whatcom County, but the high school teams are making the best of it. The next stop on our cross country preview list is at Meridian High School.
Head Coach: Mike Holz (22nd year)
Total Runners: 30
Key Returners: Abbas Theophilus (Sr.), Jaskaran Dhatt (Sr.), Jenson Ellars (Sr.), Nathan Schneider (Sr.)
We Don't Know Them, But We Will: Carlos Padilla (Sr.), Jeremy Miller (Jr.), Kobe Kobisto (So.)
What a year it was for the Meridian boys last fall finishing 3rd at the 1A State Cross Meet with 2 individuals getting on the podium. Last year's group tied the schools best finish at the state meet as a team. The Trojans were one of the favorites to win the state cross title for the 1A's and fell just short of claiming it because of injuries during the race.
With senior Kenny Barnes leaving the team this season, the Trojans don't lose any depth and have yet another year to claim the school's first state cross title.
4 seniors returning in Abbas Theophilus, Jaskaran Dhatt, Jenson Ellars, and Nathan Schneider will lead the Men of Troy this fall with tons of varsity experience. Theophilus, Dhatt, and Schneider all ran under 16:30 for a 5k, while Ellars best time was 17:01. Head coach Mike Holz knows Ellars is capable though of getting under the 16:30 barrier.
"Towards the end of last season, I thought Jenson was ready to run at least as fast as a couple of our top guys, maybe even faster," Said Holz. "That's promising that I know he can come back this year and run 16:30 at state."
One thing concerning Coach Holz is finding that fifth guy for their team, since last year they had 5 guys that were very talented.
"We have our 4 guys, but now were just looking for the key 5th person. I am not quite sure yet who is going to fill that spot, but we definitely will need someone that can run 17:30."
Some potential names we could hear about this are new incoming runners senior Carlos Padilla and sophomore Kobe Kovisto, and current runner junior Jeremy Miller.
"The key to a great team is having that depth," Holz says. "It has always been one of my key things is having 6, 7, 8, 9 guys always battling for spots because that's what makes everyone faster."
The Meridian boys are one of the oldest and most veteran teams in the Northwest Conference this year, and the chances for the school's first state title couldn't get any better for the Men of Troy.
9 - The number of consecutive years the Meridian Boy's have made it to the state cross meet as a team
Key Returners: Rubi Stuit (Sr.), Makenna Holz (Sr.), Kendyl Otter (Sr.)
We Don't Know Them, But We Will: Kayla Aalopel (Fr.)
The Meridian girls had another solid year last fall finishing 7th at state as a team. The majority of the team were juniors, but not all of them will return this upcoming season. The Trojans 2nd best runner is returning to the soccer pitch, and 4th best runner moved back to her home state of California.
Those that are returning are seniors Rubi Stuit, Kendyl Otter, and Makenna Holz. All three have varsity and state experience. Otter has the fastest 5k time from last season running 19:55. Stuit and Holz ran 21:01 and 21:27.6.
But the unexpected number one runner Coach Holz believes will lead the girl's team this season is incoming freshman, Kayla Aalopel. Last track season as a middle schooler, Aalopel won both the 800 and 1600 at the Whatcom County Middle School Championships with times of 2:30.78 and 5:42.57.
"Her passion is with running right now," said Holz. "She is one heck of a runner and is going to do great this year. If she can learn to pace herself, that will be great."
Although the Meridian girls have 3 returners, this is a team that is a mystery to many, including Coach Holz.
"Obviously a state birth is a goal of ours," says Holz. "But I honestly think we have a shot at a trophy because we got some girls that are pretty tough and competitive."
Some other contributors Coach Holz mentions who could help out the Trojans this year are senior Kady Aamot, junior Emma Forbes, and freshman Ellie DeWaard, the sister of Lynden Christian great Brooks DeWaard. Aamot was a pole vaulter in the spring for the track team and made it to the State Track Meet placing 7th.
The Meridian Trojans girl's team run in a tough Bi-District featuring teams from The Northwest School, Bear Creek, King's, and South Whidbey, making it one of the hardest districts to get out of to qualify for state. Coach Holz and his girl's team are up for the challenge in the hopes of qualifying for another state birth.