Wauseon boys and girls cross country should both be primed for success in 2020 with many runners returning from teams that were regional qualifiers and just missed qualifying for state.
The boys return eight letter winners and are adding a pair of newcomers.
“We have to develop a 3, 4 and 5 runner and we have to rely on some sophomores to perform this year. If they do we will be a very good cross country team. The boys have worked hard and have some big goals to push towards,” said head coach Joe Allen on his outlook of the boys upcoming season.
The Wauseon boys took fifth in Division II at the Tiffin Regional a year ago. They missed qualifying for state by two places.
They have a pair of seniors back from that squad, including Braden Vernot who was a state qualifier. The other returning senior is Layton Willson.
The Indians also return all-league performers in Hunter Wasnich, who was first team All-NWOAL; Jack Callan, first team All-NWOAL; Aidan Pena, second team All-NWOAL; and Carter Nofziger, honorable mention All-NWOAL.
Their other returning letter winners include Anthony Cheezan and Zaden Torres. Newcomers to the team are Garrett Leininger and Xander Ankney.
“We are a very young team. We have only 2 seniors out of our 12 boys this year,” said Allen. “We expect Braden Vernot and Layton Willson to step up and have a nice season for us. Vernot was a state qualifier and league champ last year. We will be relying on his experience. They have both put in series training this summer. Hunter Wasnich and Carter Nofziger have had a great summer of training and we look forward to seeing how their performances improve this year. Our sophomore group is incredibly talented and led by Jack Callan, Aidan Pena, and Zaden Torres. I believe if our sophomores perform well that we could be a very good cross country team this year.”
The Indians will have to replace Greg Moore and Andon Raker.
To be as successful as last year, the young talent will have to contribute.
“We are very young. Many sophomores have to learn how to push themselves to the next level this season. If they can do that we could be very good. I also believe we need further development out of our 4, 5, 6, and 7 runners this year. That group has to understand that they cannot sit back and let others try to win meets for us. They have to be willing to help more in that stance,” on potential concerns heading into the 2020 campaign.
Allen’s boys were runner-up to Liberty Center at the league meet last year. Look for them to be factors again this season.
“I would say that Liberty Center is the favorite team,” he said of the league race. “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 Wauseon girls have their sights aimed high going into the season.
“Our primary goal this year is to qualify as a team to state,” stated Allen. “We need to stay healthy and develop our pack of 4-7 runners to push themselves to do that. The girls have been working very hard with this as their end goal.”
Last season, the Indians missed qualifying for state by one spot, taking fifth and finishing just two points behind fourth place Celina.
They are led by sophomore Grace Rhoades, who qualified for state individually and placed 40th. She was also first team all-league.
Also back for the Indians are all-league performers in Natasha Miller, who was second team all-league; Serena Matthews, second team all-league; Alona Mahnke, honorable mention all-league; and Bailey McGuire, honorable mention all-league.
Their other returning letter winners are Josie Callan, Maggie Duden and Emilie Wasnich. They will have to replace Megan Carroll who graduated after last season.
“We return eight letterwinners from last year’s team. They have a better understanding of what it takes to be a successful team in cross country. We also are going to have a nice addition in Natalie Kuntz,” Allen said on strengths of his girls this season.
Like in 2019, Allen looks to the Liberty Center girls as the favorite in the NWOAL.
“Liberty Center has some very great runners who performed well last year. They will be very difficult to beat. Liberty Center is always tough,” he said. “Archbold should also be solid in the league. They are returning a host of great runners. Patrick Henry, Evergreen and Bryan are doing a nice job of developing their talent.”
Both Wauseon teams travel to Hilltop Tuesday afternoon to open the season. Racing starts at 4:30 p.m.