by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The return of two Minnesota River Conference individual champions highlights the returnees for the boys and girls cross country squads in Alex Wischnack and Judy Larson.
Larson, a freshman who took 16th at sections last year, headlines a young group of runners on the girls’ side.
Head coach Mark Lagergren said Judy has an injury but should be ready soon.
“She’s a little banged up, she hurt right now so she’s not running,” he said. “Hopefully we’re OK.”
Captains senior Abbie Schnabel and juniors April Feist and Kayla Engelstad are the only upperclassmen in a group with four sophomores and several freshman and eighth-graders.
Schnabel finished fifth in conference last year.
“She’s got 200, 300 miles in and looks really solid,” said Lagergren. “I think she is going to have a good, good year.”
Lagergren added a planned scrimmage on Monday at Watertown would help narrow down the varsity runners,
“That will determine who the top seven are,” he said. “The girls are young. If we can get Judy healthy, she’s a great runner. The rest of them are OK.”
Others vying for the top spots include sophomore Dana Norman, freshman Sommer Scott and eighth-graders Courtney Carlson and Audrey Steinhagen.
“Some of these eighth- and ninth-graders are going to be part of the varsity program quick and dirty,” he said. “That’s just the way it is. We have some sophomores, freshmen and eighth-graders and they’ll fill in.”
On the boys’ side,
On the boys’ side, Wischnack returns as one of the co-captains for his final season with two prior trips to the boys’ state cross country meet. Last year, Wischnack placed first at the 5A Section meet in Milaca as the first section of regional champion in Central cross country since Dave Fahey performed the feat in 1982. Wischnack then took 25th place in a field of 175 total runners at state in 16 minutes, 55.3 seconds.
“That makes a huge difference,” said Lagergren. “He really looks good, looks solid.”
Others returning with experience include three other seniors in co-captain Andrew Wischnack, co-captain Matt Lamberton and Chase Heuer as well as juniors Isaac Good, Clay Johnson, Devan Dvorak, Ben Barth, Ben Lagergren, Brett Kleindl, Anthony Hennen, Alex Farrell and Aaron Klaustermeier.
Also figuring to be in the mix is junior Luke Peterson who finished 90th at sections last year and put in nearly 400 miles this summer. Apart from Alex Wischnack, Barth might be the top returnee.
”I think Ben Barth will have a good year for us,” said Lagergren. “We’ll see. Numbers are good but we just have to stay healthy.”
Last year at Sections, Ben Barth took 39th, Chase Heuer was 73rd (19:06.7), Devon Dvorak was 82nd and Clay Sauter and Luke Peterson went 89-90.
The Belle Plaine girls and the Jordan boys’ figure to be the main competition in the Minnesota River Conference.
“I would like to make Belle Plaine girls nervous,” said Lagergren. “I’m not sure we can do it. I think we can be in the top third for both boys and girls. I just feel that.”
In addition to the annual Alumni Meet this Saturday, Central also host the Lions Meet on Sept. 9. Watertown will host the MRC meet on Oct. 9 this year with Milaca the site for Sections on Oct. 23.
“Some of these kids got some decent miles in the summer and that makes a big difference,” he said. “It’s a 12-week season and it flies. It will be good. Alex and Judy both won (MRC) last year. I’m not sure they can do that again. Alex would love to visit the state meet again and Judy would love to get back there.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at email@example.com.