The Wauseon cross country team will need to rely on some of their youth this season, but if they come through, the Indians should be able to compete in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League race.
On the boys side, the Indians return five letter winners, including a runner who finished in the top 25 at the regional meet last season.
“Overall outlook is the team is going to be alright,” said head coach Joe Allen. “Once again we have to develop a 4 and 5 runner and we have to rely on two sophomores to perform this year.”
The primary returnee for the boys is Michael Cheezan. He placed 22nd at the Division II Tiffin Regional in 2017.
“Our strength is with Michael Cheezan,” said Allen. “He is the senior who has put in some really nice summer training. We also expect Braden Vernot and Layton Willson to step up and have a nice season for us. Andon Raker is also looking good at the moment.”
Outside of those mentioned, Nolan Flint also returns for Wauseon.
However, they will have to deal with the losses of two key pieces from last year’s squad that helped them advance to the regional as a team. Gone are Kyle Vernot and Josh Lowry.
“We lost our top two runners from last year,” said Allen on the potential weaknesses of his team. “Kyle Vernot was a state placer who is running this next year the University of Dayton. Josh Lowry moved to Arizona. Those are going to be huge shoes to fill. The nice thing is my group is young and I could see them really developing as the season goes on.”
It will likely be an uphill battle for the boys to win a league title.
“I would say that Liberty Center is the favorite as they return a large group from last year’s team,” said Allen on the league race. “Archbold and Bryan will also be strong. We hope that we can also factor into the meet. Overall, it should be a great race to watch.”
The girls have a chance to be successful as they return their entire team.
“We return six letterwinners from last year’s team,” said the Wauseon coach. “They have a better understanding of what it takes to be a successful team in cross country. We also are going to have some nice additions in Zarhea Carroll, Bailey McGuire, and Maggie Duden.
“If we can stay healthy this year and develop our young runner, as a team we will have success.”
The Indians get back Hannah Richer who looks to lead them this season. She was a regional qualifier in 2017. Also returning are Ashtyn Falor, Megan Carroll, Josie Callan, Natasha Miller and Chaney Sigg.
Newcomers for Wauseon this season are Carroll, McGuire, Duden, Jadyn Fisher and Arianna Dominique.
“We have to develop a runner to be a front runner in some races this year,” said Allen on the main weakness for the girls. “Hannah Richer looks to fill that role. We also need to work to develop our freshmen who have very little cross country experience.”
The NWOAL will be a tough race on the girls side, states Allen.
“I would say that Archbold is the favorite. Archbold has some very great runners who performed well last year,” he said. “They will be very difficult to beat. Liberty Center is always tough. Patrick Henry, Evergreen and Bryan are doing a nice job of developing their talent.”
Wauseon is at the Columbus Grove Invitational Saturday at 9 a.m.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010