Girls’ cross country vies for title as boys adjust to new coach

Chronicle Staff

Despite the departure of many key runners, including Bridget Ballard ’06, Sarah Mills ’06 and Katherine Humphreville ’06, the girls’ cross country team will try for its sixth straight Mission League title. Their season starts Sept. 14 in a preseason meet against Chadwick and Marymount.

“We don’t have as many runners as last year, but I still think that the girls are strong runners and they can improve over the season,” lone senior Janise On said. While On lacks the quantity of seniors to help her direct the team, Head Coach Kim Hieatt believes that she has the ability to do the job.

“She has to talk loud to be heard, but she is a calm and steady leader whom the team listens to and respects,” Hieatt said. The team will be led by On, Kathryn Turner ’08 and Sydney Ember ’08 under the guidance of Head Coach Kim Hieatt.

Meanwhile, the boys’ team will look to improve upon last year’s season where they struggled throughout the year due to injuries and a lack of runners.

In a program that had only 13 people on both JV and varsity, each injury was more costly than those to the bigger teams in the league. A young team this year, the varsity will be led by Chris Okano ’08 and Matthew Krumpe ’08.

“We’ll definitely improve upon last year,” Okano said. “CIF should be automatic and we have a small shot of getting to state.”

The team will have to do it under new leadership, however; former Head Coach Tim Sharpe has left after working in the athletic department for the past three years. Sharpe held the part-time position as both head of the program and assistant track and field coach. He has now moved onto a full-time job at the Buckley School teaching physical education and running the swimming program both at Buckley’s middle and upper campuses.

“Sharpe is excited about his new position and Buckley is excited to have him,” Middle school Athletic Director Darlene Bible said.

Buckley came to Bible asking for another coach because she had recommended to them former athletic coach Mike Hamilton in the past. Bible recommended Sharpe to the Buckley school, writing a “glowing letter of recommendation.” Sharpe will continue to visit the Harvard-Westlake campus regularly because he coaches the Los Angeles Swim Club at the Upper School along with Bible.

While the athletic directors are still looking for an assistant track and field coach, the head of the cross country position was filled by Geoff Bird on Aug. 28. Being a French language teacher and the director of financial aid, it might seem as if Bird has more than enough on his plate. However, Bird has been a part of the cross country team for the past three years, helping Sharpe and the team at previous practices.

Coaching cross country has been a part of Bird’s life ever since the ’70s. He described cross country as being “a lonely enterprise” and that cross country runners must be “willing to work hard to attain a goal.”

His new position may not be permanent, depending on the candidates that come along. Bird said, “It was part of my life for a long, long time and I’ve missed it.”