Trojan harriers strive for improvement

WORTHINGTON -- With a top-notch lead runner in each program and enough balance to strive for team success, the Worthington Trojans are preparing for another cross country season.

WORTHINGTON -- With a top-notch lead runner in each program and enough balance to strive for team success, the Worthington Trojans are preparing for another cross country season.

The Trojans, coached for the sixth year by former WHS all-around athlete Mike Traphagen, open the 2006 campaign tomorrow, competing in the huge (20 teams) Wolverine Invitational at the Mountain Lake Golf Course.

"Practices have been going well," said Traphagen. "We have had good workouts and several of the kids put in lots of miles this summer, which is evident in their improvement."

That's what Traphagen likes to see in cross country runners -- improvement.

"You have to be patient," he says. "It takes time to get your body and mind ready to compete in a cross country race -- which is not easy. We want to improve as we go and build for the end of the year."


Gerber leads Trojan girls

Freshman Kaitlin Gerber is already an accomplished varsity distance runner, having excelled in both cross country and track.

Gerber finished 12th in last year's Southwest Conference meet and placed 20th in a very competitive Section 2AA meet.

"Those were impressive performances," said Traphagen of Gerber's late-season cross country success in 2005. "Then she continued that success with an outstanding season on the track this past spring in both the mile and two-mile events. She is a good distance runner -- combining natural ability, hard work and a competitive nature."

Gerber could well become one of the best girl runners in the area, which is loaded with quality in girls' cross country.

"We are anticipating good things from her," Traphagen said. "She knows what to expect and how to compete."

With Gerber bringing in a low number, Worthington's team scoring will be distributed among its next four scoring runners.

Traphagen hopes that the Trojans can find some balance there and compete favorably as a team.


Freshmen Allison Jaycox and Deann Naab are both returning letterwinners and showed good potential last season.

"Those two are hard-workers," said Traphagen. "They are smart kids and are involved in lots of activities, so they know about commitment and effort."

Angela Lowe, a junior, has logged lots of miles over the summer and is looking like an improved runner in practices.

"With Allison, Deann and Angela, we could have a solid 2-3-4 group," noted Traphagen. "Our key will be to find that always important fifth scorer."

Among the candidates for that role are a pair of senior foreign exchange students from Crailsheim, Germany -- Catrin Hanselman and Milana Bartelmess.

Freshman Jessica Chilel is a contender for the varsity, having run well in junior high last season. Eighth-grader Rachel Lopez and seventh-graders Kinzie Myrom, McKenzie Gerber and Jennifer Majerus complete the Trojan 11-girl roster.

Boys have good balance

Worthington finished fifth as a team in the conference meet last year, but with a potential low score from lead runner Brian Juber and expected good balance from the next four, the Trojans could contend for as high as third in that same meet this year.


"We expect to compete well teamwise with the boys," said Traphagen. "We may not be able to run with the best teams like Marshall and Redwood Valley, but our boys' team could be competitive with lots of other teams in the area this year."

Like the girls, the Trojans may only have to count four double digit numbers in the team scoring at many meets -- if Juber can bring in a single digit card.

Now a senior, Juber is a three-year lettermen in cross country and has been a distance runner in track too.

"Brian had seven top 20 finishes and four top 10's last fall," said Traphagen. "He was our lead runner every meet and placed an impressive 11th in the conference meet."

Injuries hampered Juber during track season, but he has recovered well and is practicing with determination.

"He is working hard and you can just sense his focused approach," said Traphagen.

Backing up Juber could be a close pack of Trojan competitors, including juniors Tim Zaske, Alex Stewart, Travis Pedersen and Alex Myrom.

Stewart is a two-year letterman, while Zaske ran well in several meets last fall.


Traphagen has been impressed by the improvement of Pedersen, who ran many miles over the summer.

"We are really counting on those juniors to keep working hard and improving," said Traphagen.

Freshman Cody Reese had a fine junior high season in 2005 and proved he could run with the varsity by season's end. He has the potential to become one of the top Trojans this year.

Another runner that could become a varsity scorer this season is junior Okuich Abella, who enjoyed success in junior high three years ago , but has not run the past two falls.

"Both Cody and Okuich could run with our juniors, giving us a tight pack," said Traphagen. "That would make us better as a team, especially if that pack keeps pushing each other."

Traphagen noted that the order of finish from meet-to-meet may be hard to predict and said that was a good thing.

"You know you have a good team when the order of finish is different each time out. We have at least seven guys that are capable of being among our top five."

While junior Ryan Meester, last year's second leading scorer, is unable to compete this year because of chronic leg problems, the Trojans appear to have enough balance to pick up the slack.


The remaining 13-member Trojan roster includes junior Caleb Fellows and freshman Joe Koepsell, along with eighth-graders Shane Pedersen, Zach Von Holdt, Ian Fleace and Patrick Wolyniec.

The Trojans host two meets this season -- the 39th annual Turkey Trot Sept. 16 and the Southwest Conference meet Oct. 17 -- both at Prairie View Golf Course.

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