The remainder of the Marion High School cross-country team had to step up after the loss of key seniors from last year’s team.
The team trained harder this summer, waking up at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays to run in Marion. The team started with 2- and 3-mile runs, building speed throughout the offseason. The athletes eventually began running a 5-mile distance when school began.
Coach Bethany Carlson expects the boys team to be more competitive than last year’s squad.
“I’m hoping our summer training works out,” Carlson said.
The Warriors have a standout runner in sophomore Jordan Hett. Hett is coming off a season where he placed ninth at the 3A state meet at Wamego.
His freshman campaign was littered with top-five finishes, including second-place finishes at the Mid-Central Activities Association meet at Hesston and Marion’s meet at Marion County Lake. Carlson said Hett will likely convert some of those top-five finishes into victories this season.
While the rest of the team may not be top contenders, Carlson thinks the Warriors, from top to bottom, will be able to keep pace with the pack of runners in the middle of a race.
“We’ll pack up and score points,” she said.
The team features three seniors — Brandon Meierhoff, Derek Stuchlik, and Michael Kirkpatrick — with no juniors, and is mostly made up of sophomores.
Meierhoff has been the leader for the young group.
“I can always count on Brandon to do what’s right and lead by example,” Carlson said.
Hett, Jacob Cope, and Patrick McCarty are the pre-eminent runners in the group of sophomores.
While Carlson expected the boys team to be competitive, she wasn’t sure if there would be a girls team.
For most of the summer, sophomore Liz Goentzel was the only female runner in the group. After the first week of school, Carlson has been able to persuade Cassandra McPhail to return to the team and has nearly recruited enough runners to fill a five-person team.
“Liz will probably lead (the team) and get medals at every meet,” Carlson said.
Carlson will know how good the Warriors will be after beginning the season Sept. 9 at Hesston. A meet at Abilene was rained out Thursday.
“We’ll be better than last year,” Carlson said, “but how much better?”