Polacca — The Hopi High School boys cross country team hopes to repeat as the 3A state champs, and the Hopi High girls cross country team hopes to move one step up after finishing second at state last year.
Rick Baker, the boys’ coach at Hopi High, lost three of the state championship team runners to graduation.
Logan Koopee, Roger Kisto and Dellen Lomayestewa were those standouts. Koopee is now running for Phoenix College and Kisto is running for Southwestern Indian Polytech Institute.
The four returners from the state championship team are Stet Lomayestewa, Matthew Honani, Harry Kisto and Doug Begay. Steven Ovah is the only senior returning to the team.
Cornell Tungovia will be the sixth runner, and six underclassmen are fighting for that final seventh spot.
“We’re young, but we should be right in the hunt. You can’t count us out,” said Coach Baker.
Baker said Tuba City has everybody back and Window Rock has four returners, so he thinks those will be the toughest opponents in the 3A North. At state, Rio Rico High School from the south is always competitive.
Baker said Honani is the team leader so far, but since Ovah is the only senior he would like to see him step up into a leadership role.
Hopi High will open its season with the Hopi Invite at 3 p.m. Sept. 3. About 20 teams are expected to compete in both the boys and girls divisions.
“It’s hard to say how we’ll do the first meet of the season,” he said. “We should be fairly competitive, but I’m not promising a first place finish.”
Coach Baker said the boys cross country team had a strong summer program.
“Our summer work should pay off,” he said.
As a former runner at Winslow High School, Baker said he continues to enjoy coaching cross country.
“The success that we’ve had here makes it more fun, and it makes it easier,” he said.
Baker has been coaching at Hopi High for 15 years and has won 12 state titles during that time.
Baker, who earned his bachelor of science degree in education and physical education from the University of Central Oklahoma, said a key goal is making sure the runners are academically eligible and injury free. He emphasized that since trainer J.D. Burgess joined the school this year that this will help keep the student athletes in shape.
As for academics, Baker said the student athletes “just need to buckle down.”
Six girls returning
Harvey Honyouti, coach of the Hopi High girls cross country team, has six returners from the Lady Bruins squad that finished second to Payson at state last year.
The repeaters are Kelsy Hardt, Alyssa Fredericks, Tara Secakuku, Mallory Shattuck, Tashawna Masayesva and Iva Sahneyah. Fredericks, Secakuku and Shattuck are seniors.
Coach Honyouti said the team leaders are Tara Secakuku, Alyssa Fredericks, Iva Sahneyah and Kelsy Hardt.
“Last year nobody stepped up to lead, but this year these four are leading vocally and by example. They have desire, dedication and discipline,” he said. “They realize it’s up to them if they want to win state. They may not win, but they know they’ll give it their best shot.
These three seniors have done everything I’ve asked of them.”
Honyouti said everybody in the 3A North Conference will be competitive. He emphasized that the Lady Bruins will have to run better this year at the state meet in order to earn the state title.
“We have to be better prepared mentally. It’s partially my fault because as coach I’m responsible for getting them ready,” he said. “We started too slow and we were too far back at the state meet to make it up. You can do that in 2A, but not in 3A. It was a rude awakening, but hopefully it was a learning experience and now we’ll see how we respond.”
Honyouti said this year is especially important to the seniors as they don’t want to go two years without winning state.
“It’s up to the seniors, whether they want it or not,” he said.
Honyouti said the starting seven for the Hopi Invite will be Kelsy Hardt, Alyssa Fredericks, Tara Secakuku, Iva Sahneyah, Traci Honani, Marissa Leslie and Kelly Lomayaktewa.
“The top seven are the ones who worked hard all summer. We had 12 who worked hard. We have others who may move up during the season, but for now they’ll have to wait their turn,” he said. “Everybody had a chance to work this summer. Some chose to come out and others chose not to.”
Coach Honyouti said the Hopi Invite will be a gauge to see where the Hopi team is at and what they need to work on.
“It would be nice to win, but that’s not a priority. We want to give the younger kids a chance,” he said.
Honyouti said he enjoys coaching because the kids are great, and the parents and administration are both supportive. He added that since he became Dean of Students this year that coaching cross country is his way or relieving stress.
Honyouti, who graduated from Phoenix Indian High School, has been coaching girls cross country for 16 years and has won 12 state titles at Hopi High.
“It’s probably better that I’m Dean because when I was teaching I would see the girls in class and at practice. That can strangle a relationship,” he said. “Now, I usually don’t see them until practice.”
Honyouti said he hopes everybody continues to come out and support the runners.
“We have a lot of support from families not in the program. We appreciate everybody’s support,” he said.
Honyouti has a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the University of Arizona and his educational certificate through Grand Canyon College. He is in the master’s educational leadership program at Northern Arizona University.