Midnight run at Danner Park to light CHS fall practices' way

Monday brings beginning of formal 2021 fall high school sports prep

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

With a girls’ squad expected to challenge for an unprecedented (in CHS history) second-straight appearance at the state meet in three months, the cross country running program, being overseen for a second year in a row by Jennifer Dickson, will get Chillicothe High School’s 2021 fall sports preseason practices off and running late this weekend.

With Monday (Aug. 9) the first date permitted for prep fall sports programs in Missouri to commence official workouts, Dickson has arranged for the Lady Hornets and Hornets harriers to gather at Daryl Danner Memorial Park late Sunday night and, shortly after the stroke of midnight Monday, engage in an offbeat initial workout that, barring wet grounds or rain, should get their preparations off to a cooler beginning.

“It'll be a ‘glow run,’” Dickson reports of the dead-of-night training in which the CHS natural-terrain distance runners will be illuminated as they make their way around the city park in the northwest portion of the community.

After the unusual opening session, the CHS cross country squads – the girls’ team having all five of its 2020 Class 3 state-meet participants – Aliyah Briner, Kadence Shipers, Juliann Gabrielson, Kaylynn Cranmer and Emily Shipers – eligible to return this season with only one (K. Shipers) a senior, the harriers will settle into the more-routine early-morning practice times – 7:00-8:30 a.m. in and around Simpson Park – The rest of next week, Dickson reported this past Wednesday.

Virtually all of Chillicothe High’s fall sports head coaches are back in the posts they had a year ago. The only exception is in football with Chad Smith succeeding Tim Rulo.

Like Dickson, heading into their second season guiding their respective programs are Darren Smith in girls’ golf, Karen Jackson in girls’ tennis, Bob Long in volleyball, and Lee Rucker in softball. With Rulo’s departure for Russellville after three years of guiding the gridiron Hornets, the only CHS fall sport with a head coach with more than one previous year at the helm is boys’ soccer. There, Tim Cunningham will oversee his 11th edition of Hornets booters.

Some hours after the cross country runners initiate the new season, C. Smith’s football Hornets are slated to take Bob Fairchild Field at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II for a lengthy session set to begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until around noon.

Under Missouri State High School Activities Association regulations, not all of that time will be spent on the practice field, C. Smith notes.

A mandatory break of an hour from field work will occur, beginning at about 9:30 a.m., he told the C-T. During that time, players will retire to either their locker room or perhaps the nearby high school for video study and/or other non-physical instruction. Eventually, weather permitting, the players will return to the stadium field for additional drills and conditioning work.

Sharers of the stadium with the football team, the soccer Hornets will have their initial practice Monday evening from 6:00-8:30, Cunningham reports.

That also will be the booters’ practice slot Wednesday and Thursday. In between, weather conditions permitting, they’re penciled in for a 2:30-5:00 p.m. practice on Tuesday, following the high school’s freshman orientation day.

The other four CHS programs will have the traditional morning practice schedules, most beginning at 8 a.m. The exception to that, due to the need to allow any morning dew to evaporate, is the girls’ golf practice, which is due to last from 9:00-11:00 a.m. at Green Hills Golf Course, D. Smith reports. The same schedule will hold true the rest of the week, he adds.

Long discloses he, along with assistants Amy Dixon and Ashley Pacheco, will gather the hopefuls for the volleyball Lady Hornets at the school gym from 8:00-10:00 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday this coming week. The Wednesday and Thursday sessions will be even earlier, but also a bit briefer – 6:30-8:00 a.m., due to district-wide new teacher training sessions those two days.

Back over at Danner Park, long after the runners have scurried on Monday, Rucker and Jackson will bring their troops together for initial practices, starting at 8 a.m. (weather permitting, of course).

The softball Lady Hornets will practice from 8:00-10:45 a.m. the first three days of the week, followed by an 8:30-11:00 a.m. session Thursday. The time of the Friday practice will depend on the fall sports “photo day” schedule, Rucker notes.

Jackson and the tennis Lady Hornets, team district champs in 2020 and potentially returning four of their six varsity-lineup members, will have their first practice Monday from 8:00-10:00 a.m. at the Danner Park courts, the coach says.

A number of the 2021 Chillicothe fall sports teams – girls’ cross country running, softball, and football in particular – are projected to have strong prospects for highly-successful seasons.

If the projected tennis returning veterans have improved to the point where they can step into top-of-the-lineup roles held by 2020-21 seniors Delaney May and Megan Sisson, they could have another winning year and – depending on how things shake out when district assignments are announced by MSHSAA late this month – be contenders for another district team crown.

Similarly, the soccer boys also should return a strong, experienced nucleus after a 10-7 season a year ago, although a couple of top players did graduate in May. 

The cross country Hornets graduated lone state qualifier Hayden Simmer and will look to regroup with a generally-young lineup.

The volleyball Lady Hornets matched the program’s lowest match-wins total this century with last fall’s 7-wins campaign, but had a largely-non-senior varsity-level player rotation. Improvement is anticipated, but competing in the traditionally-tough Midland Empire Conference might make progress tough to see at times.

The golf Lady Hornets will no longer have 4-times state-tournament qualifier Hallie Jones, last year’s Midland Empire Conference and Class 2 district champion, to build around. Last year’s squad had four other non-senior members, so, if all are back out for the 2021 squad, the program will be able to avoid its 2019 fate when it did not have the minimum number of players required (four) to compete as a team in matches and tournaments.

First games, matches or meets of Chillicothe High’s 2021 fall seasons are slated for Friday, Aug. 27 when the football team is to visit Marshall and the softball squad to begin participation in an Independence tournament hosted by William Chrisman High.

The following Monday, Aug. 30, is due to see the golf and tennis girls have their opening matches. The soccer and cross country running teams are to debut Tuesday, Aug. 31, with the volleyball Lady Hornets, as is generally traditional, the last to get going on Sept. 2.