By Rob Kiser
HOUSTON — The Houston cross country program is flourishing under coaches Bill McKinney, Ron Boeke and Tyler Roeth.
After having the boys team and Hollie Voisard qualify for state a year ago, both Tristan Friestuhler and Ava Knouff will be running at the state meet Saturday at National Trail Raceway.
For the girls, Voisard and Knouff are the first two state qualifiers since Allison Roeth.
“We have seen a big increase in numbers in the girls program,” McKinney said. “We already saw that this year after last season. The girls program is really growing.”
Freistuhler finished 69th in last year’s state meet in 17:08.8.
“I would just like to get a PR,” Freistuhler said. “I would like to get under 16:30.”
He finished 10th at the regional meet two weeks ago in 16:44.0.
“Tristin (Freistuhler) has been solid for us all season,” McKinney said. “You are not guaranteed anything, so it is good to see him make it back to state. I think the experience he got last year at state is going to help him tremendously.”
The meet was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but will now be run this Saturday due to wet conditions.
“It just means an extra week of training,” Freistuhler said. “Other than that it doesn’t make any difference.”
Although it may be about 30 degrees colder this Saturday, with the wind chills factored in.
“Cold weather doesn’t bother me,” Freistuhler said. “I just need to go out and run my race.”
Knouff became the first Houston freshman girl since the late Stacey Ritter to qualify for the state meet when she finished 14th in 20:11.9.
After the race, she said her goal had state was to enjoy the experience. But, she has changed that a little over the last 10 days.
“I am starting to take it a little more serious,” she said.
But, she has no idea what to expect Saturday, although she was at the meet last year when her brother Ethan Knouff ran at state.
“No, that’s not going to help me at all,” she said. “I really don’t know what to expect. I really don’t have a goal (for time or place).”
While that may be the case, McKinney expects Knouff to run well.
“I am sure she will be a little nervous,” he said. “But, I am sure she will run well like she always does. She ran at the state junior high meet twice, so it is not like she has not run in a big meet.”
And her success as a freshman is not a surprise either.
“We knew she had the potential,” McKinney said. “It was just a matter of adjusting to the 5K distance and having confidence at that distance (junior high races are two miles). She did that about halfway through the season and her times have been coming down ever since.”
And he had one message for her.
“It is great for her to get over there as a freshman,” he said. “But, I told her, nothing is guaranteed. You don’t know what is going to happen next year. So, you need to give it everything you got.”
In another year at state, where Houston will be represented in both the boys and girls D-III races.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.