The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

High School Sports

August 28, 2012

Joplin runners ready for tune-up

Joplin’s cross country team will have some friendly competition when they stretch their legs today in a practice run at Missouri Southern State University.

No team scores will be kept when Joplin, Carthage and Nevada get together at 7 p.m. on the cross country course just north of Fred G. Hughes Stadium.

The two-mile run will include varsity, junior varsity and freshmen boys and girls. “It’s one big race,” said Jason Riddle, Joplin’s head coach. “It’s just a practice for next week’s opener, just to give them a feel for racing.”

Matt Bennett-Riechman and Kush Bhapka, both juniors, lead Joplin’s returnees among the boys. Sophomore Logan Debyle, senior James Scheuerman, junior Devin Stahl and freshman James Tupper round out the top six.

Also competiting for positions are senior Nathan Parker, junior Thomas Scheuerman and freshmen Willie Henness and Aiden Stahl.

Joplin’s competition at the district meet has changed. West Plains and Glendale, among the leading teams at the state meet last year, will compete in a different district this year.

“We like our district, our outlook for our team,” Riddle said. “If we stay healthy, we’ll be right in the mix of things.”

Returnees for Joplin’s girls unit include Celeste Graves, a junior who qualified for the state meet last year but is not expected to run today because of an illness, Riddle said.

Other top returning runners are Shelbie DeWitt, a junior, and Rachel Peterson, a sophomore.  “Shelbie qualified for sectionals and Rachel was real close to qualifying for sectionals as a freshman, so we’re hoping to get all three of those through to state,” Riddle said.

Rounding out the girls’ unit are underclassmen Casera Wooten, Autumn Aldridge, Nene Adams, Kathleen Hughes, Makayla Ritter, Lesley Koval and Dalila Ibarra, a foreign exchange student from Paraguay.

“Quite a few of the girls and really all of the boys have been running all summer, so they should have put in a good base,” Riddle said.

Joplin’s regular season will begin Thursday, Sept. 6 at the Carthage Invitational.

“It’s a tough meet,” he said. “There are some big teams from Arkansas, then the next week we run at Missouri Southern and it’s one of the biggest meets in the state.”

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