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Wyalusing Harriers Expect to Contend
Ten letterwinners return for the Wyalusing Valley High School cross country team. They include, front row, from left, Ashley Beebe, Erika Cook and Colleen Potter. Back row: Clay Stevens, Aaron Azpiazu, Zach Snavely, Derek Howard and Grant Smith-Gary. Absent from photo are Alyssa Tewksbury and David Rodriguez.
What do you do for an encore after recording a pair of winning campaigns last season?
For Jim Schools, who begins his 15th year as Wyalusing Valley High School cross country coach, improving on a successful 2003 season is the best answer.
He has the talent to do just that this year.
Six letterwinners return to help the boys' team improve from last season's 7-3 campaign—seniors Aaron Azpiazu, Zach Snavely and Clay Stevens, junior Derek Howard and sophomores David Rodriguez and Grant Smith-Gary.
Rounding out a deep roster are seniors John Cook and Tom Larrabee, sophomores Anthony Kuszmaul, Matt Miller and Robbie Miller and freshmen Shawn Goodwin and Andrew Howard.
"We have a lot of depth," Schools explained. "We have four kids who can run up to the front in Derek Howard, Stevens, Larrabee and Smith-Gary and the rest aren't far behind.
"We should be solid throughout the entire lineup."
He noted that last season his runners ran in very good packs, but not as close to the front in races relative to other teams.
He expects that to be different this season.
"Now, we're in better condition and better shape."
He expects the Rams' main competition will come from Northeast Bradford and Towanda.
The girls' team, which finished with a very respectable 8-2 record last season, is talented, but very thin.
Only seven girls are on the roster including four letterwinners.
Senior Erika Cook, juniors Ashley Beebe and Colleen Potter and sophomore Alyssa Tewksbury are expected to make large contributions.
The other members of the team are senior transfer Rose Marie Belcher and freshmen Traci Ely and Melody Harnish.
"We're small, but we're good," Schools said of the team.
"Everyone is a good runner. What we lack in size, we make up for in talent."
Cook and Tewksbury just missed qualifying for the PIAA championships at last season's District Four meet with 18th and 19th place finishes, respectively.
The lack of depth is a concern to Schools, but he is trying not to dwell on it.
In the Northern Tier League, he admitted that everyone else is competing for second place behind Wellsboro, which returns all but one runner from last season's PIAA runner-up squad.
He likes his schedule that includes a pair of new and exciting events.
The Rams open at the Lock Haven Invitational on Sept. 4 on what he termed "an impressive course."
They will also compete in the inaugural XXXC Invitational at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia on Sept. 11. A unique format that includes a mandatory muddy finishing stretch provides nice variety for competitors.
As always, he is pointing his teams to a strong showing at the Northeast Pennsylvania Invitational at Bloomsburg University on Sept. 25. Bloomsburg is the site of the district championships set for Oct. 28, and Schools uses the invitational as a benchmark for his runners and their training regimen for the rest of the season.
The NTL Coaches' Invitational is scheduled for Oct. 23. The site has not yet been determined.
Schools is assisted by Matt Tavani.
Karen McGee coaches the junior high squad, which attracted eight girls and six boys for the first practice. Schools expects a few more junior high runners to sign up as the opening of school nears.
The Rams will host a scrimmage at home on Friday against Elk Lake and Northeast Bradford.