A familiar face joins Chewelah cross-country

Cougars have solid numbersChewelah High cross-country is getting underway with a new crop of runners and with a new coach to lead them. Kevin Kernan is the new cross-country coach, but he is a familiar face to the athletes. Kernan is a long-time industrial arts instructor and coach for JHS. Despite the varsity volleyball spot opening up with the retirement of Wendy Stenbeck, Kernan chose to go to the cross- country program. “You have to spend so much time building a program,” he said. “I just wasn’t ready to do that anymore. These individualized sports are very appealing to me now.” Coach Kernan isn’t alone with the Chewelah cross-country program. “Volunteers are the key to a smooth season and Mary Ribble is making things happen for us,” Kernan said. “She’s been helping out and organizing things for me…Mary has been a big help to this new coach.”The team is young--of the 26 runners participating, a majority of them are freshmen and sophomores. “They’re going to have to step it up and train outside the regular practice times,” Kernan said. “Setting personal goals and expectations is something we have talked about, because getting better on their own is part of an individual sport.” There are a few experienced runners: senior Shawn Verzoni and junior James Gilreath are being counted on to provide leadership and solid times, while the sophomore class is the deepest and has the most runners to watch. Caleb Montgomery, Noah Thompson, Ben Eminger, Cameron Campbell, Clinton Smith and Carrisa Hall are all runners who will be the strength of the team. “Caleb is our strongest runner,” Kernan said. “He’s blessed with a lot of raw talent and as he matures and gets stronger, he should be a good runner.”The season is underway for the Cougars, who competed in the Highlander Invitational at Shadle Park High School to kick off the season earlier this month.That meet was a great way for coach Kernan to get to know his runners. “The Highlander was a good benchmark to see where we are right now as a team and see who is going to compete,” coach Kernan said.Chewelah expects to become stronger as the season goes along and as the years go by because of the standard coach Kernan wants to set. “We need to be logging lots of miles every day, otherwise we’re not going to compete down the road,” he said. “We’re looking to turn the kids into excellent runners and letting the program snowball from there.”