Getting both girls and boys cross country teams to state seemingly every season is no easy task.
Dealing with depth, injuries and graduation is a cross all high school coaches have to bear, but the rigors of a cross country season can especially take a toll on runners, who begin training for the season in the heat of the summer.
But Claremore has persevered, especially in the last several years.
In 2015, the Lady Zebras won their first-ever state championship. Last year, the girls finished third as a team, but freshman Laynie Nichols won the state championship with teammate Katelyn Alexander finishing third.
The boys finished a close fourth last year and are ranked this season, led by Andrew Vanaman, the Metro Lakes Conference runner-up this season.
Both get a chance Saturday at the 5A Cross Country Championships at Edmond Santa Fe High School. The girls begin running at noon, followed by the boys at 12:45 p.m.
Claremore coach Eric Wiens was disappointed the Lady Zebras finished a distant second to Kelley at regionals, but he thinks it will turn around at state.
“I believe we can,” he said. “We just have to run well and hope for a little luck. Bishop Kelley and Elgin are quality teams.”
He knows what he gets with Nichols and Alexander. It’s the rest of the team that can make a difference in winning state or not.
“The keys are Gloria (Butts), Erin (Kuykendall), Kassidy (Hannah), and Lauren (Kuykendall). And even Bailey (Pritchett),” Wiens said. “It could come down to our six and seven girls.”
His “one” girl had the best regional time in the state.
“Laynie just wants to win, whether it be by one minute or one second,” Wiens said. “I think she is going to perform very well as state.”
The Claremore boys are a long shot at a top three finish at state. The young team is led by Vanaman, who sets the pace for the team. He could finish in the top 10 with a good pace and a good plan.
“Andrew is very focused,” Wiens said,” as all of the guys on the team are. It is going to be tough for him, but he just keeps getting better every week. So I expect him to really push to get in the top 10. The goal for the team is to be in the top 10, which should be very attainable.”
The Zebras have been used to running in the heat or the mild weather, but Saturday’s race-time temperature is supposed to be hovering around 48 degrees.
Edmond Santa Fe High School is located at 1901 W. 15th Street.
The course is located on campus.
The Claremore girls are ranked No. 2 in the state right behind Bishop Kelley. The boys are ranked 12th.