POLACCA — Hopi High Coach Rick Baker hopes experience will result in another state championship. Hopi High School boys cross country team has six returnees from last year’s team as the Bruins are shooting for their 14th straight state title.
The first dozen titles came in the 2A while the last two state championships came in the 3A.
Steve Ovah, who graduated last year, will be running for Haskell College in Kansas.The six Hopi High returnees and the place they finished at state last year are Stet Lomayestewa, third; Matt Honanie, fourth; Harry Kisto, seventh; Travis Sahneyah, ninth; Doug Begay, 14th; and Aaron Johnson, 33rd. Honanie is a senior; the rest are juniors.
“I expect a lot from them. We’ll be right there when it counts,” the coach said.
Coach Baker said Lomayestewa, Honanie and Kisto are capable of leading the Bruins on any given day. He said these three Hopi High athletes should be among the top runners in the 3A North--and they each have a chance to move up at state.
Those moving up from the junior varsity squad this year include senior Cornell Tungovia and sophomores Jarod Lomayestewa and Curtis Kuwaninvaya. Incoming freshmen Janus Saufkie and Vaughn Secakuku can also help.
“It’s just a question of who wants to step up to be the seventh man,” Baker said.
Baker said the Hopi High boys cross country runners stayed in shape during the summer by running, working out in the weight room and working on quickness drills.
Baker held a summer running camp over the summer with 38 area runners participating. The camp covered nutrition, race strategy, running techniques, long distance running and speed. Juwan Nuvayakva, Devan Lomayaoma and Tara Secakuku assisted him at the camps.
All three are former Hopi High School runners. Secakuku received a scholarship from Yavapai Community College to run for them this year.
Baker said the Bruins should be in the thick of the 3A North Regional race and then the state competition. He expects that Window Rock and Tuba City will present the toughest competition.
Baker said the keys to success are keeping players academically eligible and illness and injury free. He added that hard work is also a must.
“We should be right toward the top, but I’m not going to make any predictions,” he said.
Coach Baker emphasizes the importance of academics. “I support pass to play and students must pass in order to play,” he said. “A lot of the runners are taking upper level courses. We have study hall every day, and if students want to run they have to keep their grades up.”