Fort Loramie’s girls cross country squad has earned Division III state berths each of the last six seasons and has finished no worse than fourth the last five years.
With six returning letterwinners back, the Redskins are looking for another successful season.
“Our top core appears to have put in plenty of work over the summer and I really like where we are at through the first few weeks of practice,” Fort Loramie coach Dennis Prenger, who is entering his 14th year, said. “Our returners are challenging the new high school runners to compete every day and to embrace our program’s core values.”
Fort Loramie, which finished first in the Shelby County Athletic League meet again last year, returns two runners who placed in the squad’s top five in the state meet last year in Ava Turner and Lauren Moore.
Turner, a senior, ran a 20:06 time in the state meet and has a 19:20 personal record. Moore finished the state race in 19:26, a personal record.
Other returning letterwinners are senior Sarah Thomas (20:35 personal record), junior Colleen Borchers (20:35) and sophomores Harley Eilerman (20:33) and Ariel Heitkamp (20:59).
“With our returning runners and several promising newcomers, our goal is to get stronger week by week and be running at our peak come the end of October and early November,” Prenger said. “Each grade level has at least one athlete that I would consider to be one of the top runners in that class in the area.
“If we can stay healthy, we are confident in our ability to compete with the deep talent in our area and across the state.”
Prenger said he expects the SCAL race to be competitive this year and said perennial powers like Minster and West Liberty-Salem with be tough competitors in D-III tournament meets.
Sidney has won the Miami Valley League Valley Division title each year since the conference formed in 2019 and is looking for another this year while also placing higher in overall MVL standings.
Four runners return from last season, and one newcomer will round out the squad.
“This year we have a small but incredibly dedicated team of runners,” Ken Kellner, who is entering his 13th year as coach, said. “There is potential for two of our runners to at least qualify for (Division I) regionals.”
Junior Emily Fleming returns after qualifying for regionals last year. She had a season-best time of 19:55.
Also back are juniors Sophia Thompson and Olivia Murphy and sophomore Kara Kellner. Kellner had a season-best time of 21:38 last year, and Ken Kellner said both she and Fleming could qualify for regionals this year.
Freshman Hailey Dietz joins the program.
“She is looking to be in the top three for the team,” Kellner said. “She is a fantastic addition to this young girls team that has no seniors.”
The Rockets have four runners back from last year’s D-III state qualifying team and will be looking to three newcomers to round out the squad.
Jeff Maurer takes over as the program’s coach.
“The girls have been working extremely hard and are anxious to get the season started,” Maurer said. “I am very pleased with the progress we have made so far. I have no doubt that the girls will give 100 percent in trying to reach their full potential.”
Three runners who placed among the squad’s top five finishers during the state meet return: Paige Steinke, Grace Bensman and Serenity Williamson.
“Paige, Grace, and Serenity provide a strong core of returners, and we are counting on them to lead by example in how they approach their training,” Maurer said. “The area has lots of great cross country teams that are full of outstanding runners. We hope to improve as a team and be at our best late in the season.”
Steinke and Bensman each ran season-best times in last year’s state meet; Steinke, a junior, finished in 19:51 and Bensman, a senior, finished in 20:48. Williamson, a sophomore, ran a best time in 20:56 last season.
“Paige Steinke led the team last year as a sophomore and she is coming off a fantastic track season that saw her advance to the state finals,” Maurer said. “Her training this summer has risen to a new level and we are excited to see what she can accomplish. She is hopeful that the miles she has put in will lead to success this fall.
“Grace Bensman is a senior leader who was our number three runner last season. She ran a personal best in the state meet last year and we look for her to continue to build on that success. Serenity Williamson had an outstanding freshman season and was the team’s number four runner a year ago. We look for her to play an even bigger role this season.”
Another letterwinner returns in sophomore Maggie Bensman. Senior Ava Bertke and sophomores Rachel Harshbarger and Lydia Vasko round out the roster.
“Maggie Bensman showed enormous improvement last year as a freshman,” Maurer said. “She will be in the mix to make our top five.
“We have three newcomers this season that should make an impact on the team. Rachel Harshbarger and Lydia Vasko are both sophomores who show great potential as cross country runners. Neither of them have distance running experience, but both of these girls put in miles over the summer and they are excited to get the year started. Ava Bertke is a senior who will also be in the mix to be a top five runner.”
Maurer said he expects there to be many great teams in the SCAL this season and hopes the Rockets will be running at their best at the time of the league meet.
The Trojans are looking to improve on their eighth-place finish in last season’s D-III southwest regional meet. Coach Ryan Gutman, who is entering his 14th season, said having the entire 2021 squad back makes the chances of improving good.
“We are really excited to have everyone back, as well as adding two talented freshmen,” Gutman said. “… This should be an exciting year.”
Junior Brittany Arnold, who earned an individual state berth last year, leads the squad’s seven returnees. She finished the state race in 19:00 last year.
Also back is senior Alaina Jutte, juniors Ava Egbert and Malanie Maurer and sophomores Aliva Free, Grace Gutman and Alaina Mann. Jutte is a three-year letterwinner while Arnold, Egbert and Maurer are two-year letterwinners.
Freshmen Bella Bucio and Addyson Klima are key newcomers.
The Raiders return seven letterwinners from last year but are still relatively young, with five of the returnees being sophomores.
Brad Heaton, who enters his 12th year as head coach, said the goal is on continuing to develop.
“The girls are working hard and putting in the effort,” Heaton said. “The (Shelby County preview meet) is a good starting point for the team. If they continue to work hard each work, the team will be where they need to be for the (SCAL) meet.”
Anna Meyer is the squad’s lone senior. Also back is junior Jaela Shappie and sophomores Mackenzie Rose, Addison Shappie, Hannah Schneible, Emma Caldwell and Sayer Magoto.
“They are all relatively young and eager to improve their performance from last year,” Heaton said. “Team leadership will be directed by Anna Meyer, Grace Holscher, and Jaela Shappie. They keep the team motivated to improve daily performance, while still keeping it fun.”
The squad has four key newcomers: sophomore Carlie Subler and freshmen Annabelle Armstrong, Faith York and Bernadette Borchers.
“Annabelle Armstrong put in a lot of hard work over the summer and has been running well,” Heaton said. “You will see Annabelle in the team’s top performers.
“Carli Subler is a first-year cross country runner and enjoyed success as a freshman in track last year and should also be a top performer for the team.”
The Wildcats were hit hard by graduation and are looking to get new runners acclimated.
Senior Kate Rockwood is a returning letterwinner, as is junior Alicia Crawford and sophomore Mekayla Pleiman.
Bill McKinney returns for his 11th season as coach. He’s helped by Teresa Knouff.
Key newcomers include sophomore Emilee Earl and freshman Kamdyn Schaffner.
“There are a few new girls on the team this season,” McKinney said. “Kate is the lone senior and we also have Alicia and Mekayla. Emilee and Kamdyn are new this year to the team.
“Numbers are a bit low, but the girls are working hard and will improve and develop throughout the year as a group. Keeping healthy will be key with just five girls on the team.”
McKinney said Fort Loramie, Anna and Botkins should all have strong teams this season.
“The league is once again one of the strongest D-III leagues in the state,” McKinney said. “We hope to be middle of the pack come the league meet.”
Freshman Allee Wentz is the Tigers’ lone runner this season. It’s her first year running.
Steve Hoover returns as the program’s coach.
The Cavaliers had no runners last year but have four newcomers this year.
Sophomore Amy Briggs and freshmen Anna Minneci, Noelle Reineke and Zippy Bezy will make up the squad.
“After having no high school girls last year, I’m excited to watch these girls compete,” Nick Wolters, who is entering his third year, said. “Anna, Noelle, and Zippy have been running together since seventh grade and bring fun energy to each practice.
“I’m not sure if I’m ready for them to pick on me in the classroom, too, but here we are,” Wolters joked.
“Anna was one of the conference’s fastest (junior high) runners last year and will pace our team. I anticipate Noelle and Zippy to work with one another to improve each race.
“Amy Briggs will look to transition her swimming endurance to running as she joins the team.”
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Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.