Huskies get high marks, race in state meetDec 01, 2023 12:28PM ● By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High School’s boys and girls cross country team, seen here at state, will compete in early December at the Footlocker west region race in California. (Shannon Hurst/Hillcrest High)
Hillcrest High cross country coach Scott Stucki is a teacher at heart.
After his varsity runners raced at the state meet, he gave the performances a grade.
“Josh (Martin) had a really good day at state,” he said. “He ran an A+ race. He dropped 1:30 and moved up seven spots at state. He ran really well.”
The 16-year-old sophomore ran a 16:16 to finish 16th.
Stucki also was pleased with other boys’ races.
“Senior Andrew Tuttle had by far his best season,” he said, adding that he expects freshman Boston Baggett, junior Matt Keller and sophomore Levi Walton, who finished second, third and fifth for the Huskies, respectively, to continue to improve and be strong next season. “Boston was a surprise. I knew he was good and I figured he worked his way into our varsity, but I wasn’t expecting him to end up being our No. 2. That’s a credit to him.”
The overall boys team, he rated a B with a state finish of 19th. This was the Huskies’ 17th year running at the state finals.
“We went junior, freshman, junior, senior, sophomore, junior, senior and we have some talented boys coming in. If we can keep them all healthy, and running consistently in the spring during track, and get a good summer, we have a chance to be better, a top 10 finish at state,” he said. “I’m pretty optimistic about the next few years.”
On the girls’ side, senior Edith Neslen led the team, bettered her best time running a 19:38.1. Even so, she was a bit disappointed.
“She didn’t have the really big breakout she was hoping for as she wanted to be 10 to 20 seconds faster, but she ran fine, an A- race. She was a little low on energy, but she’s still ran her best 5K ever,” he said. “Edith finished 22nd; she would have liked to have been in the top 20.”
Freshman Claire McCann finished second for the Huskies’ squad with a 20:52.5.
“She didn’t run (in the off season) as much as I would have liked, but I knew she was going to have to race her way into shape. She’s pretty active and will play lacrosse in the spring as well as run track,” he said.
The team placed 12th, tying for their highest placement at state.
“This the best girl season we’ve had since I’ve been involved in 2003,” Stucki said. “The girls know they didn’t run as well as they could have and that’s without any prompting from me. They were disappointed after state. Our result could have been better, but still, it’s a great result.”
At divisionals, he gave the team a B+.
“They wanted to be faster in that race and weren’t sure if they qualified, but I knew from watching that I knew our girls were in. It was a nice feeling. It’s the first time I’ve been able to watch one of my teams in divisionals knowing we’re going to the state finals. Even watching the boys, I was pretty sure we were in. The course looks flat and fast, but the grass is soggy and long, so it made for slower times. Overall, the girls ran a B+ race. At state, we were mixed with some As, Bs and Cs,” he said.
While state is over, the Huskies season is not. Many of the runners plan to race at Footlocker West Regional in early December. Runners from the western United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, and U.S. citizens in overseas military installations, will take to the 5000-meter course at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California.
“We’re taking a bunch of kids, probably 2/3 of our team. I’m pretty sure most of our girls are going,” Stucki said.
For Neslen, that means a chance to drop to the time she wanted to run at state — despite the significant hills in the race and 80% on it is on dirt trails. It has a steep uphill climb to the finish.
“I went to Footlocker my sophomore year for my first time and got my PR,” she said. “The course is really hilly, but I like it.”
At region, Neslen finished second with a 18:52.6 on the 2.95-mile course. She wants to improve upon that. Already she is getting in long runs in preparation.
“We’re also doing a lot of hill repeats,” she said. “At state, I wanted to run a 19:20 or somewhere in the 19:10s. I’m hoping at Footlocker, where there’s lots of hills, to run under 19:30. We’re all wanting to have a good race.” λ