McInnis takes reins of Mehlville girls’ team

Mehlville High girls planning to be at the head of the pack.

Maureen McInnis, who ran cross country as an Oakville Senior High School student, is the new coach of the Mehlville girls' cross country team. Bill Milligan photo

Maureen McInnis, who ran cross country as an Oakville Senior High School student, is the new coach of the Mehlville girls' cross country team. Bill Milligan photo

By BILL MILLIGAN

With the arrival of a new head coach, the Mehlville Senior High School girls’ cross country team takes on an Oakville flavor this season.

Maureen McInnis takes over the program this season, giving boys’ head coach Dustin Pearce the chance to concentrate solely on the boys’ program.

“It’s nice to be with the school district I graduated from,” said McInnis, who ran cross country at Oakville Senior High School in the early part of this decade. She was a contemporary of Alison Vernon and others who inherited the legendary program from the likes of Melissa Sapa and other Tiger front runners.

“I still run,” she said of her sport and her love of the discipline.

“Our numbers were nowhere near what they are today,” McInnis said of the Mehlville squad.

“I’m excited to be part of this program and the dedication these girls are showing,” she added.

Leading the team this season will be Jen Carter, who holds the Panther record in the 800-meter dash.

“As long as she continues to have faith in herself, she’ll be a leader,” said Dustin Pearce, who coached the girls’ squad last year and remains coach of the boys’ team.

The team appears to have more than seven runners together in a pack during preseason workouts, always a sign of strength on the cross country circuit. Pearce has yet to ascertain how that pack of runners will translate into a team score.

Another front runner will be sophomore Gwen Werner, who last spring was part of a relay team that, if not for a missed handoff, would have advanced to sectionals with the track team.

Another member of that team was Jessica Tautphaeus, a former cheerleader, who is expected to compete for McInnis’ top position.

Another position probably will be claimed by Tamara Gerlica, who is some six seconds behind the Panther front in early time trials.

Stephanie Vu and Kenzie George are among those participants who have reported with a strong base after summer conditioning.

“We’ll see the cream rise to the top,” Pearce said.