FORT LORAMIE — Repeating last season’s success isn’t the focus of the Fort Loramie Redskins cross country team.
There are too many intangibles that go into having a boys team win the Division III state championship and a girls team finish as state runners-up.
Instead, the Redskins will work on what they have the power to control.
“We talk about running start to finish, plus two. The plus two is two strides past the finish line,” Fort Loramie coach Dennis Prenger said of program’s running philosophy.
Graduation losses hit the boys team hard. But, just like the girls team that returns its top seven runners, the Redskins don’t plan on slowing down.
The boys team returns four from last year’s state champions. Sophomores Colten Gasson (30th) and Colin Gasson (68th), senior Jordan Drees (96th) and sophomore Evan Eilerman (159th) bring big meet experience to the team.
Seniors Evan Luthman and Kaden Mescher join Drees in providing the leadership.
“They have big shoes to fill from a leadership standpoint,” Prenger said, referring to all-Ohio runners Joe Ballas and Jake Rethman and Gavin Schulze. “But I believe they understand our culture and will embrace the opportunity.”
Senior Riley Mangas, sophomore Trey Ranly and freshman Frank Rethman are also expected to compete for spots among the top seven.
“I think our guys are going to be really competitive. By the end of the season, if we stay healthy, I think we’ll surprise some people,” Prenger said. “I’m not talking about our guys winning state, but competing and being looked at as a favorite as most meets we go to. I really like our chances. … We’ll take our lumps along the way but we’re going to be solid.”
Both teams won the Shelby County Athletic League last season and look to be in the running again, with the girls as the favorites on their side.
Seniors Danielle Berning, Paige Rethman and Hannah Siegel highlight a deep roster of 14 returning letterwinners.
“Success usually starts with your seniors and we have three good ones,” Prenger said. “They all have postseason experience and will lead our team on and off the course.”
Also back are juniors Reece Boerger, Dani Eilerman, Caitlyn Gasson, Corynn Heitkamp, Angel Rodriguez and Maddie Simon. Sophomores Elise Beresik, Olivia Borchers, Anna Detrick, Kaitlyn Grillot and Claire Rethman also return.
Borchers scored the team’s highest finish at state with ninth. She was followed by Berning (33rd), Gasson (43rd), Eilerman (51st), Rethman (72nd), Detrick (85th) and Heitkamp (107th).
Cracking into the top seven will be a challenge with the girls team’s depth. But that daily competition should make the team stronger.
“If our kids can embrace competing within the team then I think we’re going to have a chance at a really good year,” Prenger said.
“We’ve talked about how you respond and how you react when someone beats you on the team. It’s going to go a long way for our success. If you shut down after that then we’re not going to be very strong. But if you rise to that challenge, you’re happy for that person but you’re motivated to work hard then our depth is going to be an asset for us.”