WARSAW – There’s no denying that the Warsaw boys cross country team will have a different look to it this fall.
There’s also no denying that the return of a healthy Ellis Coon will keep things looking up for the Tigers.
Warsaw, fresh off a program best fourth place finish at the State Finals last October, does have its share of question marks in 2013.
The Tigers graduated stars Jake Poyner and Robert Murphy, two of its “Big Three” with Coon, from last year’s squad. Poyner is now at Wake Forest and Murphy at Vincennes. The Tigers also will miss graduated Brysten James, who was their No. 4 runner at State. Warsaw also had several runners decide not to compete this fall.
Coon, who missed most of the track season in the spring due to planter fachisistis, says he is not a question mark for his team.
“It’s all good,” said Coon recently after his team returned from its annual preseason camp. “I’ve been running since mid-June and it’s getting better every week. It’s understandable that people think I won’t come back strong after no running for six weeks, but I’m not a question mark.”
“I’m taking care of the foot with more stretching than before and ice and rest. I’m putting in more quality work now. On a day-to-day scale, it’s not bothering me. I know what I went through does make you appreciate it (being able to run) a lot more.”
Coon, who was eighth overall at the State Finals last year, has high aspirations for himself and his team this fall, even if others may not.
“I want to challenge for a state championship,” said Coon without hesitation. “I want to try and break 15:00 this year. This team is good. No one may know it or think so, but we have guys who have stepped it up.”
The Tigers won conference, sectional and regional championships last fall before taking second at semi state and fourth in Terre Haute at the State Finals.
“My plan is for us to be on that podium again this year,” said Warsaw coach Jim Mills of placing at State this fall. “We’re just going to have a different look. We are thin with a couple guys not coming out this year, but we have a lot of good young kids.
“I think we have the guys to do what we want to this season. It’s going to be a challenge for us as coaches, but I have a great coaching staff that doesn’t get enough credit. They (Greg Davis, Rob Peters and Matt Campbell) do a great job with our kids. I love working with them.”
The Tigers also return junior Daniel Messenger and sophomore Owen Glogovsky from its State Finals lineup of 2012. Senior Tyler Houvener and junior Nick Bergen will also be big keys for a successful season Warsaw.
“Tyler is on a mission this year,” said Mills. “His training has been phenomenal. And Owen is a lot stronger this season.”
Mills also believes that Coon is ready for a big senior season.
“Ellis looks strong,” said Mills. “I think he’s running and training smarter now and he’s such a fiery competitor. He’s as talented as any of the top five runners in the state.
“I know I wouldn’t bet against him. This is important to Ellis. He really wants to win a state championship.”
Warsaw opens its season by hosting its own Tiger Invitational Sept. 3.