Going the distance: Cross country teams begin trek – Chico

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, August 4, 2018
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It’s not hard to find a fresh face in Dragon country these days with an almost entirely new coaching staff.

Part of the program-wide effort to make Chico athletics great again is the familiar face of Donny Vernon. The former West Texas A&M cross country athlete and longtime Chico educator will be donning a coaching hat for the first time in 11 years to lead the Dragons cross country program.

Vernon put coaching on the back burner to see his kids earn degrees from Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University. Starting Monday, Vernon will knock the rust of his whistle.

“I coached 20 plus years. I was a basketball coach and I coached football, volleyball, track and everything in between,” Vernon said. “I stepped away for a little while. When Coach Sanders called me up, I said the only thing that could get me back into coaching would be cross country or golf. So, here I am. I think it’ll be all right. I’m hoping that it will seem like old news and riding a bicycle.

Chico boys and girls cross country is expected to return six of the seven athletes who competed last year. There’s four runners on the boys team currently and three on the girl’s team.

Vernon said he’s out trying to bring in more runners before the start of the season.

“We’re working on that depth right now,” he said. “I’m trying to convince some kids that they need to go ahead and run. We need the depth and we need five on a side, so we can compete as a team.”

Leading the pack for the Chico Dragons is junior Raul Warnock. Warnock qualified for regionals after finishing fourth at district last year.

“I’m going to look to him to be big for us this season and a leader on the team,” Donny Vernon said.

Daniel Para and Nicholas Pullido will also be key returners for the Dragons this season. And heading into the 2018 season, Vernon said he’s excited about Cole Evans, an incoming freshman who he thinks will help buoy the returning talent from last year.

“He won junior high district last year, and I’m expecting him to do really well this year,” Vernon said. “He’s going to give us the depth we need. We’re going to be looking for that fifth guy to step up.”

For the girls, Chico will return three runners from last year’s team.

Destiny Stack led the Lady Dragons last season. Stack will be joined by Adafne Chavez and Janet Chavez as the runners who have committed to running cross country so far.

Last year at district, Stack ran the 3,200-meter course in 14:06. Adafne Chavez ran a 14:53. Janet Chavez clocked a 16:33.

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