After finishing last year as a district runner-up and state qualifier, the Northmor girls’ cross country team will return a lot of experience in hopes of having another successful year.
Only one runner graduated from the group that ran at state. However, she will be tough to replace, as Juliana DiTullio earned multiple all-conference and district awards and was a multi-time state qualifier.
However, the other six state runners are all back in seniors Julia Kanagy, Olivia Goodson and Kristie Wright and sophomores Lauren Johnson, Riley Johnson and Emilee Jordan. Kanagy, Wright, Lauren Johnson and Riley Johnson all earned conference and district honors for their efforts.
Also back are juniors Haley Dille and Maddison Yaussy and sophomore Sydney Kelley. New to the team are freshmen Hannah Kanagy, Kinsey Hale and Kelbie McDonald.
“We have a nice amount of veterans who have postseason experience,” said head coach Mark Yaussy. “We return seven state qualifiers. The girls are working hard and have set big goals for this season.”
For the season to be successful, the coach noted his athletes have to stay healthy and added that, while they have good numbers, many of those runners are inexperienced.
“We hope to be in the top three at conference, be in the top two in districts and, most importantly, qualify for the state meet,” said Yaussy.
He looks at the KMAC as a great way to prepare to achieve those postseason goals, noting that a number of powerful teams are in that league.
“Our conference, the KMAC, is always tough,” he said. “In fact, three teams qualified for the state meet last year and this year before, we had four teams go to the state meet. That being said,, I look for Mount Gilead and Centerburg to be the top teams at the beginning of the season, with us and Fredericktown battling as well for the conference title.”
Last year, the boys’ team placed fourth in the league meet before taking second at districts and eight at regionals. They did advance one runner to the state meet in Gavvin Keen, but both he and the team’s second runner, Austin Amens have graduated. Also, another runner, junior Jack Sears, will miss the season due to injury.
The cupboard isn’t bare for fourth-year head coach Kevin Ruhl, though, as he returns four varsity athletes from last year in senior Kooper Keen (17:30 personal best), junior T.J. Diehl (18:29) and sophomores Lucas Weaver (18:28) and Connor Radojcsics (18:15).
Ruhl also is looking at freshmen Bryce Cooper, Ryan Lehman and Griffin Healea as youngsters who could race their way onto the varsity team.
While the team has a good deal of talent, the coach feels that a big key to this season will be getting the newcomers up to that level.
“Out of the 11 on the team, only one is a senior this season,” said Ruhl. “As a result of being somewhat young and inexperienced, I think it might take us a while to get the times that will be necessary to compete for invitational titles as a team. However we have three individuals in Keen, Weaver and Radojcsics who have ran the 5K with times in the 17 minute to low 18 minute range.”
In the KMAC, he looked at Mount Gilead and Fredericktown as having the top two teams, with East Knox also being really good.
“We look forward to racing those top teams and seeing if we can get our times to go the right direction,” Ruhl said.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS