by Tad Barton
With school starting on Thursday, August 17, it’s just a matter of time before the student athletes of San Juan High return to courts, fields and courses.
Last week, we brought you the San Juan High football preview. This week, we will take a look at cross country and volleyball.
Holly and Will Walker return to coach the girls and boys x-country teams. Joining them this year as assistant coaches are Heather Lyman and Taylor Francom, who both bring championship experience to the team.
Here’s a quick glance at the 2017 Bronco cross country teams:
Girls: Holly Walker (fifth year)
Boys: Will Walker (fourth year)
Freshman Rachel Barton finishing 14th overall at the state meet.
Girls team placing third at Region and fifth at state.
2017 Team Strengths: strong leadership, cohesive team with great attitudes, hardworking, a lot of determination and deep teams
2017 Team Weakness: young team with less experience
Top returning runners: Jessica Walker (Sr), Nizhoni Warren (Sr), Rachel Barton (So), Jalynn Swenson (So), Celeste Hillhouse (Jr), Kade Francom (So), Grange Simpson (Sr), Lyle Palmer (Sr), Lymir Benn (Jr), Levi Ward (So), Brandon Walker (So).
Runners to watch in 2017:
Jessica Walker (senior) captain of the team, who has overcome a lot of obstacles the last two years. Leads with passion and a strong work ethic. Comes into the season with a personal best on the first time trial. That time has her within a few seconds of the top runners from the last San Juan High XC state championship team. Walker is hungry, willing to lead the girls’ team and compete for a state championship this year.
Nizhoni Warren (senior), a warrior who leads by example and always gives maximum effort. Warren has put in a solid summer of training and is within ten seconds of her personal best to begin the season. She is a strong captain and capable of leading a state championship team.
Celeste Hillhouse, Jr. had a solid summer of training. She begins this season 20 seconds under her personal best time. Look for her to smash last year’s times with her newly found speed.
Sophomore Jalynn Swenson’s injuries hampered her freshman year, but she’s becoming a force on the team. She ran through cross country camp with a fractured foot and never once complained. She’s a fighter who ran within a minute of her personal best, with the fracture. She radiates her positive attitude and work ethic to others on the team and will be someone to keep an eye on when she gets healthy and running again.
Rachel Barton (sophomore) is a strong overall athlete with a lot of natural talent. As she focuses in, her times will drop, and she’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Kade Francom (sophomore) enters the season with a new personal best time. He should be a top finisher in this season’s races and has the added confidence and experience to make him a solid contributor this season.
Team captain Grange Simpson (senior) spent the summer doing a rigorous cross training. Simpson is a natural athlete with a passion for running and a thirst to be the best. Look for him to be a much improved runner from last year and to lead the team to the state competition.
Lyle Palmer (senior) has a quiet work ethic and leadership which should have him poised to have a breakout season. He’s put in the time and effort in training and is just beginning to see the results of his efforts.
Levi Ward (sophomore) has speed and tremendous potential and will be a solid member of the varsity team this year. Look for him to shatter his old personal records as he consistently drops his times.
Brandon Walker (sophomore) is a pleasant surprise heading into this season. He has already shattered his personal best time from his freshman year by two minutes to solidify a spot on the varsity.
Coach Holly Walker sums up this year’s team, “We have a fabulous, large group of incoming freshmen and first year sophomores who are new to the team. These runners are adding new life and depth to the team.”
Some of the new runners include Madison Palmer, Tasiah Little, Sadie Jensen, Tiana Chamberlain, Lydia Pugh, Joy Parker, Emma Heck, Kalea Chamberlain, Gavin Jones, Trek DeWitt, Cameron Jensen, Connor Black, and Bryant Francom.
Holly continues, “We have a wonderful group of girls and boys returning from last year; many are not mentioned here but are valuable and solid members of the team. Our team is still forming and all are welcome to come join.”
The cross country team will hit the ground running on Thursday, August 17 when they travel to Salt Lake City to run at the Highland High Invitational. The race will begin at 4:45 p.m. at Sugar House Park.
After 17 years, 397 wins, and eight state championships under Coach Cassie Moon, the San Juan volleyball team will have a new face calling the shots in 2017.
Kelli Keyes takes over one of the most successful programs in 2A over the past two decades.
Keyes knows the expectations for San Juan are always high but feels up to the task of carrying on the Bronco winning traditions.
“Since it is my first year coaching, I am extremely nervous but more excited. What makes me so excited for this year are my assistant coaches SkyAnn Palmer and Melanie Holliday and a group of girls who are amazingly talented,” said Keyes.
One goal is to help build team unity and cultivate positive attitudes. Not only is Keyes facing the challenges of a being a first year coach, but the fact San Juan moves up to the 3A classification this season.
In regards to changing classifications, Keyes feels her team is up to the challenge and are embracing the opportunity.
Here is a glimpse of what Bronco fans can expect from their 2017 Bronco Volleyball team.
Head Coach: Kelli Keyes (first year)
2016 record: 21-13
Team strengths: Raw talent, solid group of young players coupled with strong upperclassmen. Smart athletes who self-correct mistakes and are extremely motivated to improve and be united as a team.
Team weaknesses: Letting errors affect their focus.
Number of returning starters, grade and position:
Delaney Palmer, So., middle blocker
Ta’ssi Su’esu’e, So., outside hitter
Keya Black, Sr., middle blocker
Ryann Shumway, Sr., outside hitter
Bodell Nielson, Jr., setter
Jerica Pugh, Sr., opposite side
Players to watch in 2017:
Delaney Palmer has a vertical that is simply unreal, making her attacks very powerful. Her athleticism and talent on the net will be hard to defend.
Bodell Nielson is an amazing athlete who knows how to get to nearly every ball that is passed to her. Her leadership and determination will be very important this year on the court.
Ta’ssi Su’esu’e is capable of hitting the ball anywhere she wants to and is able to read where a ball is going, a real natural on the court.
Nizhoni Lacy will play libero and has a hustle like no one else, which has earned her the nickname Zoom. Her ability to dig and pass a ball will be a strong asset to the team.
According to Coach Keyes, the volleyball team is very excited for the upcoming season, ready to work and improve.
She and the girls hope to see the Bronco faithful out to support the team as they compete this year.
The Broncos play their first game of the season on Thursday, August 17 against the Jordan High Beatdiggers in Sandy, UT at 7 p.m.
Football also kicks off the season this week when they host the South Summit Wildcats on Friday, August 18.
There is one correction concerning the start time of that game, it is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. and not at 7 p.m., as was reported last week.