Adrian again area power; JCC boys return talent for 2008 cross country seasonADRIAN — For at least the past three seasons, the Adrian Dragons have been the dominant high school cross country program in the area, winning an amazing six section team championships in that span. Yes, in 2005, 2006 and 2007 — AHS has won both the girls’ and boys’ titles, while hosting the Section 3A meet each of those years.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
ADRIAN — For at least the past three seasons, the Adrian Dragons have been the dominant high school cross country program in the area, winning an amazing six section team championships in that span.
Yes, in 2005, 2006 and 2007 — AHS has won both the girls’ and boys’ titles, while hosting the Section 3A meet each of those years.
The Dragon girls have showed their remarkable depth and balance by winning three consecutive state championships over that same span, while the Adrian boys have steadily climbed — at the state meet — from eighth to third to second.
“It has been a great three years with both the girls and the boys,” long-time AHS head coach Doug Petersen said. “Our girls have raced to three straight state titles and our boys have become one of the best teams in the state, too.”
Judging by Adrian’s dominating performance in the season-opening meet at Mountain Lake Aug. 27, the Dragons appear prepared to make a strong bid for more post-season success in 2008.
Showing lead run talent, along with its typical balanced depth, Adrian’s girls won the 16-team meet by 39 points, while the boys claimed a 24-point victory over a strong field, that included a talented — but still young — Jackson County Central squad.
JCC returns seven of its top eight boys from a team that won three meet titles a year ago. With an abundance of experience — along with the dedication of high amounts of summer mileage — the Huskies could certainly improve and become one of the area’s best teams this season.
Another area boys’ team that looks to be strong is the combination of Hills-Beaver Creek/Ellsworth/Edgerton. The Patriots displayed their senior balance in their opening meet, winning the 13-team Beresford Invitational in South Dakota Aug. 29 by a convincing 29-point margin.
Of course, along with the top team performances, cross country also gives individuals a chance to perform well on their own — and the area, again, has lots of talented distance runners that will challenge for medals throughout the season.
Here is a brief look at the area’s cross country prospects for this season.
Loaded with talent and experience on both sides, the Dragons have a total of 26 runners, including 14 girls and 12 boys.
Seniors Leslie Stover and Erica Thier lead the girls, while eighth-graders Jordin Kopplow and Megan Sauer have tremendous talent. Sophomores Hailee Heitkamp, Natasha Slater and Alissa Sauer all return with varsity experience, along with freshman Austyn Thier.
Senior Chris Reisdorfer, along with juniors Nate Reyne and Jordan Pater give the Dragons a trio of front-running boys. Seniors Kyle Henning and Brett Springman run close to the top three, as do junior Zach Runia and freshman Jase Pater, giving Adrian the kind of balance that wins team championships.
Four senior veterans — Halden Van Wyhe, Tyler Paulsen, Dustin Verhey and Brent Kramer — provide good talent and leadership for the Patriot boys. Freshmen Luke Werner and Ryan Weitgenant will also contribute for coach Tom Goehle.
Goehle has several top-notch girls as well, including sophomore Whitney Wilgenburg, who raced to a 34-second victory at Beresford last week, clocking a fine early season time of 16:08 over a 4,000-meter course.
Senior Rayna Sandoval, junior Heather Esselink, sophomore Brianna Domeyer and freshman Siera Wilgenburg complete the H-BC/E/E girls’ varsity.
Murray County Central
High in numbers — especially among seniors — the Rebels will again field a pair of competitive teams.
Coach Dominick Damm has eight senior girls listed on his 10-member roster, including state meet experienced veteran Laura Christensen, who raced to a second-place individual finish at Mountain Lake last week. Erica Drealan, Cassie Gleis, Laura York, Sam Leebens, Stephanie Janke, Kalie Staples and Brooke Ackerman are the other MCC senior girls.
The Rebels have four seniors — Mitchell Hart, Mark Bau, Buddy Diekmann and Cameron Johnson — on its 14-man boys’ roster, which also includes talented sophomore Joey Erickson.
Mountain Lake/ Butterfield-Odin
The Wolverine girls just missed qualifying for a repeat trip to the state meet last year, finishing a close third in Section 2A, after a runner-up performance in Section 3A in 2006. Coached this season by Mike Nelson, ML/B-O is again in Section 2A, competing against perennial powerhouses like Fairmont, Blue Earth Area and Mankato Loyola.
Junior Petra Nelson and sophomore Karina Fast both qualified individually for last year’s state meet and will be joined by six other returning letterwinners this fall. Senior Hannah Hildebrandt will team with juniors Sierra Harder, Nadya Bucklin and Karen Herrig, along with sophomores Gretchen Wall and Jill Langland, giving the Wolverines excellent depth as they contend for team honors this season.
The ML/B-O boys do not return any lettermen, but freshman Nathan Dukes did run in some varsity meets at the end of the 2007 season. Sophomore Ron Clark, a transfer from St. James, also shows potential, as do several eighth-graders and first-year freshman Cory Fast.
The Eagles will be led by a trio of junior boys, as Corey Vis, Aaron Spronk and Josh Bobb are each running for Southwest Christian. Vis finished a strong 11th, out of 142 finishers, at Mountain Lake last week.
Leading the girls is freshman Megan De Ruyter, who was also an individual medalist at Mountain Lake last week with her 13th place finish. Four other Eagle girls who new coach Evon Mittlestadt is counting on are senior Katelyn Gravenhof, junior Mary Buys, freshman Hayley Gravenhof and eighth-grader Hannah Van Dyke.
Westbrook-Walnut Grove/ Red Rock Central
The Chargers, coached by Steve LeBoutillier, were hit hard by graduation and face the new season lacking both numbers and experience.
Rick Rohlik, a junior, returns as the only boy cross country letterwinner and is also coming off a fine spring as an all-around runner for the Charger track team.
Sophomores Collin Nickel and Spencer Batalden, along with freshman Brent Huls and eighth-grader Nathan Byers are good young prospects.
Junior Sami Baker, a four-year cross country letterwinner, returns to lead the Charger girls and is joined by senior Casey Brown, who ran track for the first time last spring. Brown brings a lot of enthusiasm and potential to the program.
Jackson County Central
Having come on strong at the end of last season, the JCC girls bring back six letterwinners and a solid back-up crew as they seek to forge ahead for an even better season this year.
“The girls have worked very hard to improve,” JCC co-head coach Kerri Kocak said. “They have been dedicated and put in a lot of miles this summer.”
Leading the Huskies will likely be sophomore Leslie Handzus, who was JCC’s top runner in nearly every meet last season and clocked a season best time of 16:11 at the section meet.
Fellow sophomores Megan Johnson, Kinbrae Bezdicek, Hope Belknap and Sarah Voehl return as letterwinners, as does eighth-grader Angela Handzus. Sophomore twin sisters Allyson and Brittney Kruse are also promising prospects for the Huskies.
While the JCC girls were a pleasant late-season surprise in 2007, the boys were solid contenders all season long. Now a year older and stronger, this young group has big goals for this season.
“They kind of feed off each other,” said Kocak. “The boys have some natural talent, but they’ve also worked very hard. They love to run.”
Kocak’s son Matt, now a junior, has been the team’s lead runner, but sophomore Marc Strom has run a close second. Strom’s older brother Steve starred for JCC a few years ago and his dad, Brad, co-coaches with Kocak.
Juniors Sam Hendrickson, Jon Troe and Aaron Fields return as lettermen, as do sophomore Justin Cook and freshman Ben Kocak.
Hendrickson, who ran 505 miles this summer, paced the boys to over 2,300 miles as a group.
“Our offseason mileage and our summer racing has made a significant impact on our fitness level,” said coach Strom. “We are excited about the season ahead of us.”
Windom / Southwestern United
Like ML/BO, Windom switched from Section 3 to Section 2 last year and will compete to the east again this year at season’s end.
But the Eagles, who were joined by Southwestern United last season, will go up against many area teams in most of their meets.
Windom/SWU had a very strong, yet young, girls’ team in 2007 and most of its top runners return.
Sophomore Chelsea Garrison just missed an individual state qualification last year and will be joined by sophomore Cassie Cselovszki, along with freshmen Meridith Hentges and Kelsey Olson at the front of the Eagle line-up.
Cselovszki, a hard-working runner from SWU, is currently sidelined with tendonitis and her absence will be felt by the Eagles.
Emily Turner, Kyle Dane-Willard, Emily Grandprey, Amy Green, Katie Axford and Theresa Green are among the other top runners for the team, coached by Mike Kray.
Sophomore John Curley was the Eagles’ lead boy last season and is back, along with Michael Farrell, Ryan Vesey, Heath Peter and Kyle Haglund. Jared Pomerenke, a junior, who lettered for SWU as a freshman two years ago, is also a top prospect.
A total of 18 girls and nine boys are on the roster at Luverne for new coach Pete Janiszeki, who was an outstanding runner for the Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI combination back in the middle 1990s.
Senior Kayla Raddle returns with six years of experience to lead the Cardinal girls, while junior Rachel Saum, freshman Paige Nath and eighth-graders Josey Kockelman and McKayla Schilling also ran on the LHS varsity a year ago.
Senior Matt Christensen and juniors Davontae Maine and Nick Sandager are the most experienced LHS boys, while the freshmen trio of Austin Stroeh, Terrell Maine and Nathan Stensland-Bos look to contribute also.
Veteran coach Bob Nangle returns for another season as the Arrows’ head coach and has good numbers with eight girls and 13 boys competing.
Senior Ann Marie Dykstra and junior Amanda Schoonhoven give PA a pair of outstanding lead runners. Both Dykstra and Schoonhoven have competed well at the state meet.
Senior Casey Kooiker leads a boys’ team that also features junior Colin Cooper and a strong sophomore cast, including Casey Kooiker, D.J. Bones, Gathin Veldhuizen, Jake Schneider, Justin Ilse and Griffin Veldhuizen.
Seven girls and 14 boys grace the roster at T-M-B where senior Ryan Tholen has become one of Minnesota’s best distance runners.
As a junior, Tholen finished fourth in the state cross country meet and also ran among the top 12 in the mile at the state track meet last spring.
Joining Tholen as upperclassmen on the boys’ team are seniors Alex Jones and Will Johnston, along with juniors Aric Carpenter, Dalton Kirk, Eddie Anderson, Erik Cooreman, Jesse Miller and Josh Lubben.
Freshman Karli Tholen, Ryan’s sister, leads the girls’ team. Senior Carly Miller, along with juniors Anna Snyder and Haley Hebig will contribute, as will freshmen Lauren Schaar, Heidi Bengston and Jordan LaVoie.