Fall sports offer a wide variety of spectator choices, both for afternoons and evenings, and whenever autumn lives up to Mark Twain's description as the best of seasons in Missouri fans are doubly blessed.
Be the weather what it may this autumn, after a very hot and dry summer for the most part, Mexico High School again will field seven different fall squads engaged in interscholastic athletic competition against NCMC rivals Boonville, Fulton, Hannibal, Kirksville, Marshall and Moberly plus a handful of non-league opponents, some near and some far.
The Bulldogs open the fall campaign with softball Wednesday at Marshall, girls tennis Thursday at home against Helias and varsity football Friday here with St. Joseph Lafayette. In an attempt to bring MHS fans up-to-speed on their non-football sports, The Ledger sent a questionnaire to the head coach of each team.
Those responses will be published in the order received, starting with cross country and girls golf. Fall practices got under way Aug. 6.
CROSS COUNTRY: Head coach John Wilbers, assistant Lucas Breneman.
BOYS RUNNERS – Alex Shaw, Jake Vitale, Sam Fayad, Raven Twenter, Scotty Martin, Alex M. Hamilton, Dalton Wilson, Bradley Hutchinson, Haden Hobbs, Ryan Spargo, Andrew Slay, Zach George, Spencer Freeman, Jordan Jones, Malik Holman, Logan Anselmi, Darrin Taylor, Micah Gwinn, Payton Samuelson, Dakota McGrath.
GIRLS RUNNERS – Maddie Prince, Jami Brandow, Zori Holman, Lauren Ransom, Mikayla Beasley, Kirby Weber, Rachel Hightshoe, Danielle Bohr, Dyneshia Shivers, Mia Case, Christiana Jordan.
FIRST MEET – Sept. 1 in the Mexico Invitational.
SUMMER WORK – "We had many kids run voluntarily throughout the summer, including lots of freshmen. That's really saying something because running is hard enough, but of course it was crazy hot. So for those kids to go out two or three times a week consistently and pound the pavement shows how dedicated they are for cross country."
PRACTICE MODE – "Now that official practices have started, we are doing lots of body fitness and base running. In a while, we will start timing things and setting running-related goals. It's hard to say what we will look like as a team in the first meet, but I am feeling very confident we are on course to steadily become faster and stronger throughout the season, with an eye on peaking just in time for conference and district meets."
EXPECTATIONS – "Because our expectations are high (sixth consecutive conference champs, maybe district champs also), we have entered a few harder meets this year. In some of those meets, we may not walk away at the top, but they should bring us to a place by the end of the year where we can have a chance to be one of the best."
Page 2 of 3 - WHO TO WATCH – "We have lots of returners and lots of young, new talent. Returning varsity captains are Jake Vitale (senior), Maddie Prince (sophomore) and Alex Shaw (junior). You can expect all three of them to be consistent medal winners in most races. Other top returning varsity members include Sam Fayad, Jamie Brandow, Zori Holman, Lauren Ransom and Raven Twenter. Some up-and-coming talent to watch includes Malik Holman, Spencer Freeman and Jordan Jones. I think these are notable names you will see high in the standings."
FINAL THOUGHTS – "All of our team (about 30 kids this year) is dedicated and working toward their best potential and giving full effort. Our JV runners, I think, will continue to dominate the competition."
GIRLS GOLF: Head coach Lindsey Yancey.
FIRST MEET: Aug. 27 at Helias Triangular with Rolla.
COACHING BACKGROUND – "This will be my fifth year coaching golf at MHS. I'm back after taking a couple years off and I'm excited to be back with this team."
SIZE OF SQUAD – "We have six returning players from last year including two all-conference golfers (Haley Auwarter and Layne Ray). It is a great advantage to have so many experienced players on a golf team. We are looking forward to seeing where we stack up with our conference and district rivals."
RETURNING TALENT – I am excited about each of our returning golfers. We have some great leadership in many different ways from each girl. Layne Ray (junior and sectional qualifier last year) is a talented player I expect will be leading our team in average; she will medal in several tournaments this season. Haley Auwarter is back for her last season as a senior; she has been a solid No.2 player and provides experience and a calm professionalism about the game for our younger girls. Kaylee Stone is another junior; she has a fantastic attitude on the course and is always very supportive of all her peers. I really believe she will improve from her last two seasons. Our three sophomores (Abigail Hoer, Abby Gooch, Jessica Slagel) have all been practicing consistently over the summer, so I am expecting a nice improvement in averages during the season."
GOALS – "As an individual sport, each girl has set goals for herself and we are constantly working to develop practice plans that will help them reach those goals. We have a (team) goal to be competitive with our opponents and hopefully put a few matches in the 'win' column. We are also hoping to send at least one player to the state competition at the end of the season, which will be a tall order because our sectional competition is very tough."
NEW FACES – "We have four freshmen on our team and we are looking forward to seeing them learn the game of golf. They will be a key part of our success not only this year, but especially in the years to come. I expect these girls (Erika Smiley, Christina Head, Sarah Jeffries, Brittany Lucas) to be the building blocks of future success."
Page 3 of 3 - NCMC OUTLOOK – "We are well placed in the conference. We have one of the larger teams and having so many returning players we are hoping we will be competitive."
FINAL THOUGHTS – "As a part of MHS golf history myself, I am so excited to return to some of our traditions and to create some new ones with this team. I have already been impressed with the attitude they bring to practice every day. I told them the first day the amount of work and dedication they put into practice will be reflected in competition and they have taken that seriously. They have set lofty goals for themselves and are constantly thinking of working toward those goals, of what they are doing well and of what they need to change. I think we are off to a fantastic start and I can't wait to see what our season brings."