The Newton High School cross country teams will have a new head coach and a few new faces running varsity when the Railers take to the courses this season.
D.J. Bookout will lead the Railers this season, replacing longtime coach Richard Mick, who stepped down at the end of last season. He is assisted by longtime assistant Michelle Bergquist.
Bookout coached the Newton middle school team for three years. He also coached at Wichita North High School for three years.
"I have been running since I was a child and continue to find meaning in the running lifestyle," Bookout said. "I have helped take teams to state in the last three years and have had individual athletes place at state. I am eager to show my athletes how to meet their personal goals through personal responsibility and hard work."
The Newton boys are the defending Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I champions, taking second at regionals and 12th at the Class 5A state meet.
The Railer girls were sixth in league and eighth in regionals last season.
Two state qualifiers return for the Railer boys — seniors Luke Schmidt, who finished 54th in 17:30, and Ben Gering, who finished 97th in 18:39.
Other returning letterwinners include juniors Ella Mayes, Analiyah Torres and Sarah Georgiou and sophomores Aspen Schmidt, Elia Bergquist and Emily Torres.
Runners looking to move up from the junior varsity ranks include Alex Barnett, Jason Catache, Drew Dillon, Gabe Gaeddert, Clayton Kaufman, John Koontz, Parker Schultz, Jakob Senn, Luke Stenzel and Nicholas Treaster.
Top freshman newcomers include Angel Gutierrez, Landon Lunsford, Earl Mueller, Isabel Sandoval and Michael Southern.
"We are cautiously optimistic mentally and have been working really hard in conditioning since June to have an incredible season," Bookout said. "We've been maintaining KSHSAA's C-19 guidelines and are grateful to have the time that we've had. C-19 has forced us to find creative ways of keeping each other safe while also having meaningful practices. We are very grateful to have a season and hope to continue to work hard together to achieve our goals."
Bookout looks at Maize and Derby as the top challengers for the Railer boys’ crown. Top contenders in the AV-CTL I girls include Derby, Maize and Hutchinson.
Top non-league opponents include St. James Academy, Blue Valley Southwest, Maize South, St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop Carroll.
Sept. 3 @ Great Bend Inv. (Lake Barton) ccd.
Sept. 10 @ Swather Special (Hesston GC) 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 17 @ Hays Inv. 4 p.m.
Sept. 26 @ Rim Rock Classic (Rim Rock Farm, rural Lawrence) TBA
Oct. 3 Newton Inv. (Centennial Park) 9:30 a.m.
Oct. 17 AV-CTL I @ Lake Afton TBA
Oct. 24 Regionals TBA
Oct. 31 State @ Rim Rock Farm TBA