Anna’s boys cross country squad has earned four consecutive state berths and is looking for another berth this season.
Jeff Maurer takes over as the program’s coach. Longtime cross country and track coach Dean Stewart retired from Anna after last season and is now coaching cross country at Hilliard Bradley.
“Our team is excited about the upcoming cross country season,” Maurer, who was also Anna’s girls basketball coach five years, said. “Many of our guys logged a lot of miles over the summer and they are eager to compete.
“Our team is made up of kids with different levels of running experience. Half of our team is composed of kids who are new to the sport, so it will be interesting to see their improvement as the season progresses. Several of our guys gained valuable running experience at the state meet last year and will look to build on that success.”
Among the returnees is junior John Young, who finished the Division III state race in 17:38 last year. His best time a year ago was 17:23.
One other runner who placed in the Rockets’ top five in last year’s state meet returns in senior Noah Deeren, who ran a season-best 17:44.
“They both ran in the mid 17’s and will be looked upon to provide leadership for us this season,” Maurer said.
Other returning letterwinners include seniors Zane Michael (22:31 2021 best time) and Austin Davis (23:25) and sophomores Kyle Edelmann (20:00), Josh Boyd (20:34) and Colin Tomanelli (24:08).
“Kyle Edelmann ran his best time of the year at last year’s state meet,” Maurer said. “He has worked hard this offseason and has the potential to have a breakout year.
“Zane Michael, Austin Davis, Josh Boyd and Colin Tomanelli all return from last year’s squad and will be competing for spots on our varsity team.”
Two key newcomers are freshmen Weslee Fogt and Tyler Maurer.
“Wes ran 11:52 as an eighth grader and Tyler ran 12:24,” Jeff Maurer said. “Both show the potential to develop into quality runners.”
Maurer said four other newcomers will compete for varsity spots: juniors Ethan Blindauer and Maddox Deeren and sophomores Christian Mahan and Clayton Edwards.
“Christian Mahan and Clayton Edwards have been running well during preseason workouts,” Maurer said. “Ethan Blindauer and Maddox Deeren decided to try cross country for their junior year and are already showing improvement. This is a solid group of newcomers who should get stronger as we get deeper into the season.”
Anna finished third in the Shelby County Athletic League race last year after having finished first the previous two seasons. Maurer said it should be a tough race again this year and is hoping the Rockets will be running their best late in the year.
The Yellow Jackets have won the Miami Valley League Valley Division each year since the conference formed as 2019. They’re looking to do so again this season.
Six runners are back to help the squad earn another title this season — and potentially a Division I regional berth.
“The addition of several athletes has our goals on qualifying for regionals,” Ken Kellner, who is entering his 13th year as coach, said. “We look forward to the challenges of the season.”
Three seniors return in Gavin Musser, Andrew Bonifas and Kyle McKinney. Musser ran a season-best time of 17:16 last year while Bonifas ran a season-best in 18:03 and McKinney ran a season-best in 19:14.
“The team is being led by the three seniors who are all anticipating their best seasons yet,” Kellner said. “Andrew, Kyle and Gavin all plan on using their knowledge and experience to mentor other athletes to achieve their best. In addition, each of them will be honing their own biomechanics to continue their progress as strong runners.”
Also back are juniors Braxton Brewer (season-best time of 18:58) and Tiar Golden (20:11) and sophomore Simon Blackford (18:50).
One key newcomer according to Kellner is junior Isaiah Golden.
“Braxton, Tair, Simon and Isaiah have significant roles as each of them have high expectations,” Kellner said. “They know the steps needed to reach them.”
Other key newcomers include freshmen Nick Dietz, Samuel Baldauf and Wally Grieve.
“Both Nick and Samuel look to be on varsity this season,” Kellner said. “One or both are looking to be in the top five for the team.”
The Redskins returned to the state meet last year after missing in 2020. Three runners who ran in last year’s state meet return in Adam Ballas, Frank Rethman and Korigan Ransdell.
“Early in the season, we will need three to four other runners to fill the gap left from the graduation of a strong 2021 senior class,” coach Dennis Prenger, who is entering his 14th year, said. “The guys have been working hard in practice, challenging themselves to close the gap on our top three.
“While we will be inexperienced, our guys have been around guys like Joe Ballas, Jake Rethman and the Gasson twins, so they know what it takes to be successful.”
Frank Rethman, a senior, had a 16:57 best time last season, which came in the state meet. Adam Ballas, a senior, ran a 2021 best time of 17:11 in the state meet. Ransdell’s best time last season was 17:31.
Three other letterwinners return in senior Kam Barhorst (18:48 2021 best time) and sophomores Isaac Holthaus (19:23) and Jared Baker (19:53).
Fort Loramie edged Botkins for the SCAL title last year, and Prenger is expecting another tight race this season.
“The last several seasons, the SCAL has been competitive from top to bottom,” Prenger said.
The Trojans not only qualified for the D-III state meet but earned the best finish in program history by finishing sixth.
Coach Ryan Gutman is hoping the squad will build off of that success with seven returning lettermen this year, including four of the squad’s top five runners from the state race.
“We lost two key pieces to graduation from last season, but with what we have returning, we believe we can finish our season in a better place than last year,” Gutman said. “Hard work is key for that to happen.”
Among the returnees are three-year letterwinners in seniors Keaton Schnippel and Carter Pleiman. Schnippel was first among Botkins’ runners in the state meet last year by finishing in 16:55 while Pleiman was second 17:14.
Junior Parker Schnippel, a two-year letterwinner, also finished the state race in 17:14, a fraction of a second behind Pleiman. Sophomore Carson Brown finished the state race in 17:24.
Also back is senior Austin Rogers, junior Grant Flora and sophomore Collin Doseck.
Key newcomers include senior Brady Steinke and freshmen Ryan Koenig, Noah Miller and Zander Warren.
The Wildcats finished fourth in the SCAL last year and earned a regional berth. With four letterwinners back, they’re looking to improve on both finishes this season.
“Four of our top seven varsity runners return this year, so we expect to improve on our team finishes from last year,” Bill McKinney, who is entering his 11th season as coach, said. He’ll be assisted by Teresa Knouff.
Seniors Ethan Davis and Lucas Lagenkamp return, as does junior Wes Vondenhuevel and sophomore Dylan Shaffer.
Key newcomers include junior Rusty Vondenhuevel, sophomores Mason McDermit and Anthony Pollock and freshman Dakari Crawford.
“Ethan Davis had a solid year last season and has trained really hard this summer and should be our leader,” McKinney said. “Wes Vondenhuevel, Dylan Shaffer and Lucas Langenkamp who should be in our top five.
“After that, there are some open spots from last year that we expect some returning upperclassmen to step in to fill. We need to find some depth to back up our top five to seven runners and remain healthy to meet our goals for this season.
“With 13 guys on the team this year, we have good numbers and should be able to fill in that team depth needed. The guys have been training hard and expect to be competitive this year.”
McKinney said Anna, Botkins and Fort Loramie should be very good again and said Russia should be competitive as well.
“Once again, the SCAL is an outstanding league in cross country,” McKinney said. “We hope to be able to get in the mix with those teams by the league meet and finish in the upper half of the league as a team.”
Six returning letterwinners will look to help the Raiders improve after finishing fifth in the SCAL meet last year and eighth in the D-III southwest regional meet.
Zachary Bell takes over as the program’s coach.
“We are a very young but experienced team,” Bell said. “We expect to be right in the hunt again this year in the postseason. Our boys are motivated and ready to compete. Coming from a great offseason, the team is focused and determined to get back to the state meet.”
Junior Brayden Monnin returns, as does sophomore Caleb Unverferth. Both had season-best times last year of 17:28. Monnin qualified individually for the state meet and finished in 17:29.
Senior Matthew Caldwell (18:38 2021 best time) returns, and sophomores Landon Pleiman (17:58), Jacob Schmitmeyer (18:15) and Sheldon Pohlman (19:31) are also back.
Senior Michael Bell and freshman Jayden Gaerke are key newcomers.
“Jayden was a top five finisher in the SCAL (junior high race) last year,” Zachary Bell said. “He is a runner who will put his head down and just work hard. If I need him to do something, he does it. He is very hardworking and determined.
“We are also adding a senior in Michael Bell this year. Michael was a member of the 4×400 relay team who placed eighth in the (state track meet). We are excited to add his speed and senior leadership to the team this year.”
Bell said he expects another strong year in the SCAL.
“Traditionally this league has always been a strong league to compete in and we are excited to go at it again this year,” Bell said. “We still expect to have to work every day to be one of the best teams in the league.”
The Tigers will be led by a returning state qualifier this season in senior Kellen Reichert. Reichert finished 24th individually in 16:25.
“He has been working hard this summer and I expect to see more improvement this year,” Steve Hoover, who is entering his 27th year as coach, said.
Senior Noah Rains (2021 best time of 21:28) also returns. Newcomers in Owen Willoby (sophomore) and freshmen Carter Klopfenstein and Ian Stengel round out the squad.
“We have a lot of younger athletes this year,” Hoover said. “Many of them will be adjusting to the 3.1 mile race for the first time. Our goal is to be as competitive as we can.”
The Cavaliers have four returning letterwinners and will be looking to improve after finishing fourth out of five teams in the Three Rivers Conference last season.
Seniors Mark Moloney and Hezekiah Bezy return, as does junior Logan Linson and sophomore Brennan Potts.
“Lehman is back with another ‘jogger-naut’ cross country team,” Nick Wolters, who is entering his third year at coach, joked.
“We will be led by seniors Hezekiah Bezy and Mark Moloney, who are both coming off strong track seasons. Logan Linson returns for his third season, and Brennan Potts returns as a strong contender for us as well.
“… I anticipate Hezekiah, Mark, and Brennan to have some friendly competition with each other throughout the season. They are all faster than their coach now, so either I’m getting slower or they’re improving. I like to think they’re improving.
“Logan is not far behind. He is taller, faster, and stronger this season. As long as he stays healthy, he’s in for an exciting year too.
Key newcomers according to Wolters are freshmen Chris Galbreath, Adam Flood and Calvin Linson.
“They have all been putting in strong summer work and will round out the team,” Wolters said of the freshmen. “I like the work ethic and potential of this team. They all give their best races each time, which is all a coach can ask for.”
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Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.