New coaches, veteran faces hve Rifle cross country expecting big things

Head Coaches: Halie Herbert and Ray Van Der Veer, first years

Last Season: Jonny Hernandez placed 66th overall in 3A state meet, qualified for state in back-to-back years

Key Returners: Boys - Nick Heil, Sr.; Jonny Hernandez, Jr.; Patrick Whitt, So.; Girls - Karisa Coombs, Jr.

Runners to Watch: Adrian Valerio, So.; Keegan McCarthy, Sr.; Jace Coller, So.; Angel Silva, Jr.; Girls — Audrey Abbott, So.

Former head coach Kyle Mickelson has taken a step aside due to his move into an administrative role at Rifle High, allowing first-year head coaches Halie Herbert and Ray Van Der Veer to take over a very strong program with a number of key returners from last year’s squad.

Mickelson will help out in a volunteer coach’s role, but it will be Herbert and Van Der Veer’s show this fall.

The former coach is expecting solid results from the Rifle cross country program, thanks in part to the boys returning three standout runners in junior Jonny Hernandez, senior captain Nick Heil and sophomore Patrick Whitt, while the girls welcome back junior Karisa Coombs to carry the load for a young team.

“Our boys team has a lot of depth and I am expecting big things from them as a team,” Mickelson said. “Our goal is to qualify as a team for state; that’s what we want the most. We are young, but Nick Heil, who has outstanding character and is a natural leader, will be guiding this young team.

“Our girls team is small again, but we are hoping to qualify some individuals,” Mickelson added. “Karisa and Audrey [Abbott] have put in the work this summer and are ready to make some noise.”

With Heil and Hernandez, who has qualified for the state meet the past two years and has competed at the international level, leading the boys, and Coombs pushing the girls team, Rifle could really make some noise on the Western Slope in 3A once again this fall, getting Herbert and Van Der Veer’s tenure off to a flying start.

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