SPRING HILL — Four state qualifiers, including Alyssa Anderson, the Tri-County Spotlight Female Runner of the Year, are back to lead the Spring Hill High School cross country team.
Anderson took one minute off her personal record last season and ended the year with an 11th place finish in the Class 5A state meet. Anderson placed fourth in the league meet, eighth in the regionals and 11th in state.
Anderson, a junior, went out for cross country the first time as a freshman and placed 13th in the state meet, just missing a medal.
Tommy O’Leary, a senior, and junior Kael Knittel qualified to represent the Spring Hill boys at state last season.
Juniors Vanessa Lahner and Molly Murray were state qualifiers for the Lady Broncos.
The Broncos have 35 student-athletes out for the program with 23 boys and 12 girls.
Aaron Buttell and O’Leary are returning seniors.
Junior Braden Stillmaker is another letter-winner back for the Spring Hill boys.
Junior Saydee Shannon was a letter-winner for the Lady Broncos last season.
Some of the newcomers to keep an eye on for the Spring Hill cross country team this season are: Jasmin Hunt, Kate Penhallow, Kiana Navratil, Kylie Rogers, Aidan Smith and Ryland O’Hanlon.
“Resiliency is the key to our success this season,” Spring Hill coach Brent Smitheran said.
“Nothing in this season is going to be normal,” Smitheran said. “The ability of our athletes to adapt on the fly and make the most of less than perfect situations is going to determine much of our success this season.”
Smitheran is in his 20th year with the Spring Hill cross country program and sixth as head coach.
“Juniors Vienna Lahner and Alyssa Anderson have really set a tone of work ethic on our girls side,” he said. “They are really helping to bring along our large group of talented freshmen girls.
“Juniors Braeden Stillmaker and Kael Knittel, as well as seniors Aaron Burrell and Tommy O’Leary, are all serving in leadership roles on our boys side,” Smitheran said. “With so many boys out this season, they are really helping to teach our greener runners how we do things.”