The Wauseon cross country team has to replace just four total letter winners (2 boys, 2 girls) from the 2021 team and should enjoy much success again this season.
Wauseon will also have a new but familiar coach leading them this year, as longtime assistant Tom Vernot takes over coaching duties for Joe Allen.
“We have had a good summer of training which will enhance our performance in the fall,” said Vernot. “We will be racing against some very competitive programs to push our team to improve and learn racing strategy. Both the girls and boys programs will have some holes to fill so our focus will be to develop our pack. It should be an exciting season for the Wauseon Indians.”
Notable returnees for the Indians are Grace Rhoades (state qualifier) on the girls side and Aidan Pena (state qualifier) for the boys. Rhoades, a three-time state qualifier, finished 25th at the state meet in 2021. Pena took 41st in the boys race.
Other boys returning are Xander Ankney, Levi Short, Garrett Leininger, Jack Callan, Miles Kuntz and Joseph Perez. Emilie Wasnich, Natalie Kuntz, Odalys Santillanes and Selah Sanches return to the girls team.
The Wauseon girls are also adding newcomers Ella Rhoades and Zea Armstrong.
“We have experienced runners on both the boys and girls teams who have been to state. Their experience and leadership will help us develop the younger runners,” explained Vernot.
Gone off last year’s squad are Hunter Wasnich (23rd at state) and Carter Nofziger from the boys team and Maggie Duden and Serena Mathews from the girls.
“We need more kids to join to help strengthen our teams. Wauseon lost two key runners to graduation — from both teams — that provided experience and leadership. We will need to replace that talent, and rely on our seniors to help develop our freshmen and sophomores,” said Vernot.
A few teams stand out to Wauseon’s first-year coach as it pertains to the Northwest Ohio Athletic League race.
“The Liberty Center girls continue to remain very strong in our league. Most of their state runner-up squad returns so they should continue to place at the top. Patrick Henry and Archbold should also be very strong this year as well,” Vernot said.
“The Archbold boys team last year were league champs and will continue to be strong with lots of depth. Liberty Center and Bryan have outstanding programs as well and will definitely provide good competition for our boys,” he added.
Wauseon competes at the Defiance Early Bird Open this Saturday at 9 a.m.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.