Times Sports Editor
Clay City High School has developed a reputation as being one of the top boys cross country schools in the Wabash Valley with semi-state berths in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Eels have an experienced lineup in place this season and are looking to return to semi-state after its season ended in the regional last year.
Clay City returns five of the top-seven runners from last season's team that finished third at the Terre Haute North Sectional.
After a practice on Thursday, coach Keith Jones talked about how much last year's experience will impact the 2009 Eels.
"I hope we're going to be able to carry over the experience of last season, but a lot depends on how hard they worked (during the summer)," Jones said.
The team returns a pair of seniors in Parker and Conner Modesitt along with first-year ru nner, Adam Sumner, juniors Jesse Vansickle and Austin Sinders. Landry Moss and possibly Josh Decker have also gotten previous experience. Ben Denker is a sophomore and joined both Modesitt's in a trip to North Carolina State for a cross country camp during the summer.
"I think they liked the camp," Jones said. "But they realized that it's a lot of work."
The groundwork is already in place for success as the Eels look to build on last year's success.
Parker Modesitt placed 14th in the sectional followed by Vansickle in 16th and Conner Modesitt in 28th. Clay City graduated just one postseason starter in Braxton Griffith, but DJ Newton, a senior this season, did not return to the team.
Jones pointed out that his upperclassmen have set high goals for this year.
"The group that ran last year, I think they'd like to make it out of the regional, but I guarantee no one is going to hand it to them," Jones said.
There won't be a shortage of competition as Terre Haute North returns most of its lineup and has garnered top-five rankings after winning the sectional, regional and semi-state. Terre Haute South also returns all but two from its second-place sectional team and Northview, West Vigo and North Central each will battle the Eels in the sectional.
The senior leadership of both Conner and Parker Modesitt has kept Clay City going in the right direction as well.
"The seniors, they've run over the summer and that's the right example to set," Jones said. "Conner and Parker have both run up front a lot and they know it's their last year so they want to make it to the next level.
"I think you'll find that the name of the game is summer running," Jones added. "You've got to push through the pain and you've got to keep on driving, it has a lot to do with personal drive."
While the numbers on the boys' side of the equation are a bit down this season for Clay City, finding girls' runners has proven even more difficult for first-year coach, Chris Ames.
As of Thursday, just one girl had attended practice, but Jones had hopes that the program would be able to potentially recruit more members once school was back in session.
Clay City's season officially begins on August 29 when the Eels compete in the Riverton Parke Invitational.
Clay City cross country schedule
|Sat., Aug. 29||at R.Parke Invite||9 a.m.|
|Sat., Sept. 5||at T.H. North Invite||9 a.m.|
|Tue., Sept. 8||at N.Central/Sullivan||4:30 p.m.|
|Thur., Sept. 10||Clay City Invite||5 p.m.|
|Sat., Sept. 19||at S.Knox Invite||10 a.m.|
|Tue., Sept. 22||at West Vigo/West Vigo||5 p.m.|
|Sat., Sept. 26||at Shakamak Invite||10 a.m.|
|Tue., Sept. 29||at TRC (Shakamak)||5 p.m.|
|Thur., Oct. 1||vs. T.H. North||5 p.m.|
|Thur., Oct. 8||at SWIAC||4:30 p.m.|
|Tue., Oct. 13||at Sectional (LaVern Gibson)||5 p.m.|
|Sat., Oct. 17||at Regional (Brown County)||TBA|
|Sat., Oct. 24||at Semistate (Brown County)||TBA|
|Sat., Oct. 31||at State Finals (LaVern Gibson)||TBA|