The Wauseon boys and girls cross country teams could be at opposite ends of the spectrum this season as the boys are young and the girls return seven letter winners from a team that qualified for the regional meet in 2018.
On the boys side, the Indians have a full roster but many of their runners are underclassmen.
“Overall outlook is the team is going to be alright,” said head coach Joe Allen of the boys. “Once again we have to develop a 3, 4 and 5 runner and we have to rely on some freshmen to perform this year.”
Their main weakness will be with what they lose from last season.
“Michael (Cheezan) was a state qualifier who is running this next year the Huntington University,” stated Allen. “It is going to be tough to replace Michael, who was last year’s league champion. The nice thing is that my group is young and I could see them really developing as the season goes on.”
Also gone is Nolan Flint. However, returning for the boys are Andon Raker, Braden Vernot, Layton Willson, Carter Nofziger, Zach Robinson, Carter Hite, Hunter Wasnich and Anthony Cheezan.
“We have 15 boys on this year’s team and 9 of the 15 are either freshmen or sophomores,” said Allen. “We expect Braden Vernot and Layton Willson to step up and have a nice season for us. They have both put in series training this summer. Andon Raker also had a great summer of training and will have a good season. Hunter Wasnich and Zach Robinson could do some nice things for us as well. We are really excited about our freshmen group. We could see them turning into a really nice group.”
Freshmen newcomers for the Indians are Jack Callan, Jaxton Fisher, Aidan Pena, Joseph Perez and Zaden Torres.
Allen sees a very competitive boys race at the Northwest Ohio Athletic League Championships later this year.
“I would say that Liberty Center is the favorite team,” he said. “Archbold and Bryan will also be strong. Delta, Evergreen, Swanton and Patrick Henry have some individuals who will factor into the league meet. We hope that we can also factor into the meet. Overall, it should be a great race to watch.”
The girls will be a different story with seven letter winners back.
“They have a better understanding of what it takes to be a successful team in cross country,” Allen said of his girls. “We also are going to have some nice additions in Alona Mahnke, Grace Rhoades, Alexis Todd, and Emilie Wasnich. Last year the girls were regional qualifiers and only lost one runner from that group. We look to build on that success. Megan Carroll has done a great job of leading us, as the lone senior.
“If we can stay healthy this year and develop our young runners, as a team we will have success.”
Main returnees for the girls squad are Maggie Duden, who made it to state last year as a freshman, Megan Carroll, Josie Callan, Natasha Miller, Chaney Sigg, Bailey McGuire and Serena Matthews. Audrey Leininger is another newcomer to watch for, along with Mahnke, Rhoades, Todd and Wasnich.
“We have to develop a group of front runners in some races this year,” stated Allen. “We also need to work to develop our freshmen who have very little cross country experience. We have to also work on developing more of a pack mentality within our 4 through 7 runners.”
The main loss the Indians will suffer is that of Hannah Richer who finished 16th at a Division II district meet last season. Other departed letter winners are Ashtyn Falor and Zarhea Carroll.
In regards to the league race, Allen says that Archbold – who has won the title the last two seasons – will be 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.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010