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Ranger boys look for break out season

By Geary Deniston
Contributing Writer
updated: 8/27/2019 1:25 PM

The Benton Rangers boys' cross country team is coming off its best season since the great teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Coach Brent McLain thinks he has the foundation to make a run at another Top 10 finish.
The Rangers open the season Aug. 27 at the West Frankfort Quad Meet held at the West Frankfort City Park.
Over the past four seasons - the last three under McLain - the Rangers have qualified for state as a team three times finishing 24th in 2015, 22nd in 2017 and 19th last year for its best finish since finishing fifth in 2002.
"We're in an unusual situation this year where we're smiling a little bit and have our fingers crossed," McLain said. "Every year, you hope to have returnees, but this year, we have three All-South runners back and I don't know of any other team that can say that."
Adding to those three is junior Reece Johnson, who finished 51st at state for Neoga last year. He transferred to Benton after his father was hired as superintendent at the high school.
"Here's where it gets interesting," McLain said. "You take three that are great state runners and all of a sudden you add another one better than them, so we now have four that are going to be phenomenally outstanding, we think."
McLain's three All-South runners are sophomore Chase Owens and seniors Joey Samples and Brady Gischer.
"Brady is a three-sport athlete who has decided he wants to be a runner in college," McLain said. "Everyone expects him to be good, but he's going to surprise them and be really good. Our seniors... we can't be more happy about."
Last year, Owens was the No. 1 runner for the Rangers until Sample beat him at state coming in 70th with Owens finishing 102nd and Gischer 124th.
"Chase had the fastest times ever as a freshman in Benton history and he's had a great summer," McLain said.
The other returnee is junior Parker Sieveking, who was the No. 5 runner last year for the Rangers varsity and finished 195th at the state meet.