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Despite losing many of its top runners from last season, the Sedona cross-country teams have come back bigger and better than ever.

Gone are top boys runner Kris Schindele, and top girls runners Mykala Seresun, Eva Wilson, Taylor Gage from last season, but new head coach John Ortiz said he still expects big things from this year’s team.

“It looks like a really good team,” Ortiz said. “I think last year we had really small teams, and this year I think we’re going to be able to get both the boys and girls teams to the state cross-country meet, which would be huge.”

Part of Ortiz’s optimism stems from the arrival of sisters Sammie and Natalie Cox, who transferred to Sedona from Newbury Park, Calif., where they were top performers on both the cross-country and track teams.

“We picked up the two girls from California who are pretty good runners,” Ortiz said, and we’ve got Krupa [Bhakta] and Tia [Myers] from last year who are really stepping it up.”

Other runners for the girls team include Kelly Vergara, Mychael Saczalski, Lilly Davis, Elen Harutyunyan and Isidora Neira.

The boys team returns four runners who competed for the varsity in the state cross-country meet last season, led by Travis Okie, Denny Drotzmann, Kevin Alvarez and Cristian Vergara.

Other runners for the boys team include Brian Vergara, Luke Doerner, Joe Glomski and Nick Malmgren.

Ortiz coached the jumpers [long jump, triple jump, high jump, pole vault] on the Mingus Union High School track team for 15 years, and was an assistant coach for the Sedona track team last season.

He was asked to coach the team by Sedona’s previous cross-country coach, Harry Schneider, whom Ortiz said needed a break after coaching cross-country for 39 years.

“He approached me late last year during track season about it, but in fall I’m pretty busy,” said Ortiz, who is a local contractor. “There’s no way he was going to be able to stay, so I told him ‘I’ll help you out as much as I can.’

“But we got down to crunch time and so I said ‘OK, I’ll do it.’

“It’s fun! I’m having a good time.”

For the full story, please see the Friday, Aug. 23 issue of the Sedona Red Rock News.

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