by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Minnesota River Conference medalist Alex Wischnack and fellow state qualifier Judy Larson highlight the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams for Central High School this season.
Wischnack, a junior, is among several returnees for the boys which boasts a strong returning class of six seniors and five juniors, according to head coach Mark Lagergren.
“Alex is back,” said Lagergren. “He had some health issues. I think he’s healthy and I think he’s good to go. (He has a) real positive attitude.”
Lagergren also highlighted junior Chase Heyer, senior Alex Kayser and sophomore Ben Barth, in addition to Wischnack.
“I think his (twin) brother Andrew is looking really solid,” said Lagergren. “Some of those guys, they got 200-300 miles in this summer. Alex probably got 400 miles in. You put in 200, even 300 miles in during the summer its going to pay back.”
Kayser and fellow senior Cole Sauter were part of last year’s section team while seniors Dakota Schneider and Jacob Daniels are new to the program.
In addition to Wischnack and Kayser, the other captain this season for the Raiders is senior Josh Hendel.
For the girls, captains include senior Parry Larson, junior Abbie Schnable and sophomore April Feist.
The squad is relatively young with only three upperclassmen in Parry Larson, Schnable and senior Morgan Krueger. Eighth-grader Judy Larson qualified for state last year while Parry just missed out.
“Judy is a great kid,” said Lagergren. “Parry is a little banged up. She’s had some injuries this spring from track. I think she’s biking, she’s running. She wants to run on Saturday and we’ll see how she is.”
Last year, the boys finished fifth and girls took fourth in the Minnesota River Conference and the team goal is for both to be in the top three at the MRC meet on Oct. 10, according to Lagergren.
Central is again the host of the MRC meet and will also host the alumni meet at Baylor Park on Saturday, Aug. 24, the MRC scrimmage on Monday, Aug. 26, and the NYA Lions meet which include 20 teams on Sept. 10.
“We have conference again which is really good,” he said. “I hate to say it’s home field advantage, but it is. I’d love to run our home park and those guys do a phenomenal job. It’s a beautiful course.”
Lagergren expects Jordan to lead the conference for the boys, while Watertown and Tri-City United are in the mix as well.
“We would love to sneak in there,” said Lagergren. “I think we can do that. We would love to be second or third.”
For the girls, Belle Plaine is by far the favorite to win with Jordan and Watertown also among the contenders.
“We’d have to have to have a good day,” he said of making it into the top three, but Judy Larson and a healthy Parry Larson, along with Feist and sophomore Beth George, could overcome their youth.
Central finds itself in a new section this year as they switched from 4A to 5A, leading to a scenario where they will hardly face fellow section teams all season.
“I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing for us,” said Lagergren. “You still got to run and you still have to run well.”
Overall though, Lagergren is excited as most runners put in hard work over the summer.
“The whole summer running is so critical because our season is 12, 13 weeks long,” said Lagergren. “If you look at any research, it takes about 16 weeks to get in shape. It was nice to see some of these kids get 200, 300 miles in and that’s a huge bonus.”
Attendance at captains practices was solid all summer, with 30 kids or more attending, and that enthusiasm has continued into formal team practices.
“We’re returning some good numbers,” said Lagergren. “We had a really good first week of practice which makes me a little excited. Good kids. Really some good quality kids.”
Contact Adam Gruenewald at firstname.lastname@example.org.