Strake Jesuit Cross Country Preview
Jacob Piekielniak ’17
Jesuit cross country teams have won 22 State Championships as a member of the TCIL from 1972-2002. In 2003 Jesuit joined the UIL continuing the most successful athletic program at Strake Jesuit.
The program’s level of consistency is unmistakable. Coach Mike Kerley continues to lead the program in his 17th year at Jesuit with the help of his assistant coaches Peter Nurre, Taylor George, and Maximilian Maier. Jesuit cross country is a true program in that coaches emphasize developing all levels. The recipe for persistent success relies on experienced seniors to foster young talent within the program. Kerley and his team have undoubtedly created a culture of success. Additionally, the athletes in the cross country program are special. The dedication and fortitude required to train year round is rare. Kerley knows what it takes to win, and his athletes have fully bought into his system.
After the 2014-2015 season, the program lost fifteen seniors. Last year, the Crusaders lost an eight-year streak of winning the district and regional championships, although they maintained their ten-year streak of qualifying for state. “We feel like we have something to prove,” Kerley said. Therefore, a sense of urgency can be expected from Jesuit cross country this year. Fortunately, Kerley believes in culture and system over individual talent. New leaders will emerge for Jesuit cross country and preserve the rich tradition. “We’ve been fortunate to have some talented, hard-working kids who have kept the tradition going,” Kerly noted. The senior class is highlighted by Andrew Hebert and Hugo Gonzalez, Sam Cartwright, and Braxton Mills. Talented juniors on the roster are Jeff Price, Jason Bugg, and Ryan Turner. JV best runners are Harrison Hayes, Will Hartwig, Will Bonderer, Henry Clark, and Lucas Bourgoyne. The freshmen class is a talented group led by Andrew Spires, Alex Mills, Joshua Chretien, and Will Botard.
Improvement is already evident despite the program’s competing in only three invitationals so far. On September 3rd, the SJ Cross Country team competed at the Montgomery Moonlight Madness Invitational. The Varsity team finished 4th, Junior Varsity finished 2nd, and Freshmen finished 2nd. Sixteen days later the Crusaders ran at Kingwood’s Andy Wells Invitational. The Varsity team finished 2nd, Junior Varsity finished 2nd, and Freshmen finished 1st. With such impressive results at all levels, the Crusaders are off to an impressive start.
The UIL State Meet is on November 7th; however the Crusaders seem to be in midseason form. No doubt there are high expectations this year for Jesuit cross country. The eleventh straight trip to the state meet is surely the top priority. “If we continue to train hard and become a little more consistent, we can make it happen,” Kerly commented. Strake Jesuit cross country has a bright future.