Girls cross country teams loaded with talent

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

The thundering stampede is on the move as girls are gearing up for this season’s cross country action. All of the runners will be putting their speed and endurance qualities to the test as they battle it out for runner supremacy over the hills and trails of the running courses. Here is a preview of the area girls teams.

Herald File Photos
Leah Schnell will be back as one of the main runners on a Jasper girls cross country program that’s coming off of a successful 2017 season. Schnell will once again double in both cross country and soccer during the fall.

Jasper Wildcats

Last season
Won Big Eight Conference title; finished second overall in sectional; finished fourth overall in regional; finished 12th overall in semistate

Opening meet
Today at Vincennes Lincoln Invitational

Returning runners
Caitlin Knies (Sr.)

Erica Schmitt (Sr.)

Leah Schnell (Sr.)

Alyssa Skorge (Sr.)

Melissa Bielawa (Jr.)

Annie Brake (Jr.)

Abby Davis (Jr.)

Anna Kidwell (Jr.)

Lydia Grow (Soph.)

Kalen Jochum (Soph.)

Paige Lofton (Soph.)

Amanda Schnell (Soph.)

Kelsea Skorge (Soph.)

Key newcomers
Mayson VanMeter (Jr.)

Mia Ahner (Soph.)

Madison Burks (Fr.)

Alexis Christiansen (Fr.)

Livia Land (Fr.)

Kylie Morton (Fr.)

Andi VanMeter (Fr.)

Kylee Weisheit (Fr.)

Notable: Jasper coach Kevin Schipp characterized last season as an overachievement for the girls cross country team. He said a slew of runners ran personal bests in their appearance at semistate and also bagged a conference title to show for their work last fall. As for this year’s campaign, Schipp’s main concern is keeping everyone healthy during the season as they make their way back to another deep run in the postseason.

Jasper will be returning seniors Caitlin Knies and dual sport athletes Leah Schnell and Alyssa Skorge, who will be splitting time between the cross country and soccer teams. Junior Annie Brake is nursing a foot injury, but she figures to be a major factor once she is healthy. Sophomores Kalen Jochum, Amanda Schnell, and Kelsea Skorge will all be in the mix as well.

Quotable: “I think they can be a really good team,” said Schipp. “They’ve been pushing each other, working together and having a lot of fun. We want to repeat as Big Eight champs, and we want to be in the conversation for state.”

Alex Hasenour is one of four returning juniors back for the Southridge's girls cross country squad this season.

Southridge Raiders

Last year
Finished third overall in conference; finished fifth overall in sectional; finished 10th overall in regional.

Opening meet
Aug. 21 vs. Shoals, Heritage Hills, Pike Central, and Springs Valley

Returning runners
Alex Hasenour (Jr.)

Kaelynn Luker (Jr.)

Cheyanne Mottler (Jr.)

Brooklyn Tretter (Jr.)

Ellie Hasenour (Soph.)

Evie Hasenour (Soph.)

Key newcomers
Maria Nichols (Sr.)

Kylie Schepers (Sr.)

Notable: Southridge is bringing Steve Surgeon back into the fold as the coach of the girls cross country team, and bringing back pretty much the same team that made it to regional last season. The major new additions will be senior runners Kylie Schepers and Maria Nichols, but Surgeon is looking to integrate them as the team tries to build on last season’s successes.

To that end, Surgeon has been working the girls hard as they cut down times and build up stamina, making sure that they don’t overdo it and increase the risk of unnecessary injury. Junior Brooklyn Tretter will be leading the pack, and sophomore Evie Hasenour has been having good workouts for the team during the summer runs.

Quotable: “I feel if everyone stays healthy we’re going to be competitive,” said Surgeon. “I’m excited to have a good set of girls that are disciplined. I feel blessed I was given that hand this year.”

Claire Mehling will return to lead the Forest Park girls cross country team as a senior; the Rangers won the PAC and the sectional last season while Mehling advanced to state individually.

Forest Park Rangers

Last season
Won Pocket Athletic Conference title; finished first overall in sectional; second overall in regional; ninth overall in semistate; Claire Mehling finished 87th overall at the state meet.

Opening meet
Hosting the Forest Park Invitational on Aug. 16

Returning runners
Katelyn Englert (Sr.)

Claire Mehling (Sr.)

Josie Berg (Jr.)

Abby Hauser (Jr.)

Ali Pund (Jr.)

Amber Theising (Jr.)

Magda Alvis (Soph.)

Sara Kitten (Soph.)

Key newcomers
Ellie Hall (Fr.)

Notable: Forest Park coach Philip Wolf described last year as a season of culmination in which the Rangers were able to reap the benefits of prior years with a plethora of postseason success, including sending one their runners to the state meet for the second time in school history. It was also the second ever sectional title for the girls cross country program. And with the return of a good portion of last year’s team, Forest Park is looking to retool and make another deep run once again.

Senior Claire Mehling, who ran in the state meet, will be coming back for the Rangers and rounding out the top three will be junior Josie Berg and sophomore Magda Alvis. Wolf says that the girls on the roster are very seasoned and they have the goal of sending more than one runner to state this time around.

Quotable: “The team has a lot of experience going into this season,” said Wolf. “I think we got a solid group that could be knocking on that door to say ‘We’re here to be heard.’”

Claire Schnell will be one of two senior runners on the Northeast Dubois girls cross country team this season.

Northeast Dubois Jeeps

Last season
Finished fourth overall in conference; no team score in sectional, regional, or semistate (Shelby Livingston finished seventh, 22nd, and 115th respectively in those meets.)

Opening meet
Today at the Vincennes Lincoln Invitational

Returning runners
Claire Schnell (Sr.)

Hannah Schepers (Sr.)

Kaylie Bonifer (Jr.)

Shelby Livingston (Jr.)

Shami Sorrels (Jr.)

Morgan Schepers (Soph.)

Key newcomers
Rachel Hemmerlein (Fr.)

Notable: Northeast Dubois coach Ben Gessner said last season for the Jeeps was tough to swallow at times. The girls had a pretty small team with five runners, and when they were hit with injuries it hit especially hard, sometimes leaving them without enough runners to post a team score. But they pressed on and used the season as a time to build up the runners who were healthy and did what they could.

Junior Shelby Livingston was a bright spot for the girls as she went on to run at semistate as a sophomore last season. She figures to be a strong runner for the Jeeps once again. Seniors Claire Schnell and Hannah Schepers will be major factors and are coming off good summer workouts. Sophomore Morgan Schepers also had a good summer and is on pace to make an impact for the Jeeps in the fall.

Quotable: “Hopefully this year it would be nice to take another girl up to (semistate),” said Gessner. “If we could get at least two girls there it would be great.”

Caitlin Lueken is the lone senior on a Heritage Hills cross country team that’s looking to have a strong season with a plethora of young runners.

Heritage Hills Patriots

Last season
Finished fifth place overall in conference; fourth overall in sectional; fifth overall at regional; 19th overall at semistate.

Opening meet
Aug. 16 at Forest Park Invitational

Returning runners
Caitlin Lueken (Sr.)

Julia Garland (Jr.)

Angie Ibilal (Soph.)

Madison Klem (Soph.)

Elizabeth Williams (Soph.)

Katie Winkler (Soph.)

Key newcomers
Michaela Gogel (Fr.)

Karrie Marvin (Fr.)

Caitlyn Schipp (Fr.)

Lauren Sisley (Fr.)

Matayia Sims (Fr.)

Notable: Heritage Hills coach Kurt Denning said last season was a pleasant surprise as the Patriots made it to semistate as a team to go along with respectable showings at the conference, sectional, and regional meets. The team kept on getting stronger and growing in confidence at the right junctures during last season, and Denning hopes the Pats can keep trending in the positive direction this fall.

Heritage Hills’ top two runners will return in senior Caitlin Lueken and sophomore Katie Winkler. Denning said that the rest of the lineup behind them is open for placement, and he’s hoping his large group of freshman can step up and make an immediate impact for the Pats this season.

Quotable: “I would like to see them get back to semistate as a team,” said Denning. “The vast majority of them have put in decent mileage (this summer). Everything will bank on our first meet. We’ll kind of see where we’re at from there.”




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