Jeeps cross country looks to fill voids

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Junior Paige Wildman is a returning semi-state runner for Northeast Dubois cross country.


DUBOIS — Northeast Dubois cross country will have to have somebody fill that void as its No. 1 boys runner this year in the wake of Pierce Brinkman’s graduation, and Jeeps coach Ben Gessner offered the names of two candidates — Peyton Betz and Brandon Schnell, both juniors.

“Brandon, he’s just got some natural talent,” Gessner said. “Peyton, from a year ago, I see strides of improvement in him and his endurance.”

Whichever of them doesn’t run at No. 1 will likely run at No. 2, but senior Austin Breitwieser is coming out for cross country this year after competing in track this past spring. Yet, Gessner thinks Breitwieser will have good results, as he’s been going along well during the summer.

He also envisions senior Preston Brinkman and junior Ty Verkamp as names to look for in the boys top five.

The girls side is also dealing with a void, as junior Jordan Schweikarth transferred to Jasper, but the Jeep girls also have some quality experience returning. Juniors Paige Wildman and Sara Livingston both individually qualified for semi-state in 2020.

“State would be a possibility for Sara,” Gessner said. “You got to get gutsy, you got to get tough. She’s tough now, but she’s definitely got to get tougher, work on her speed. She would have her work cut out for her to get there, but if she puts her mind to it, anything is possible.

“Paige, she’s just trailing behind there a little bit from Sara — hoping to get her to semi-state for sure,” he added.

Northeast Dubois just missed out on sending its girls team to semi-state last year, having finished in sixth place at regionals. Gessner has his doubts about it happening this year, though, since the Jeeps lost Morgan Schepers to graduation, and there’s a big time gap after Livingston and Wildman, though this could change.

Northeast Dubois cross country coach Ben Gessner thinks senior Austin Breitwieser can produce some good results for the team this season.

The Jeep girls list five runners on their roster, just enough to field a team. They have junior Emma Betz and freshmen Madelyn Schepers and Emma Mitchell.

“Those three can team up, work consistently, push each other, be supportive of each other to make each one of them better,” Gessner said.

The boys made it to regional as a team last year, and despite graduating Pierce, Gessner thinks the boys team can return to regionals in 2021. He sees multiple runners who can make some deep individual runs.

“I’d say Brandon and Peyton semi-state right now, and probably Preston within the mix as well,” he said.

Gessner is hoping his runners will stay consistent in their training, and he’s hoping the Jeeps will get long runs in.

Northeast Dubois is set to begin its season Aug. 19 at the Forest Park Invitational, and Gessner knows what he’s looking for.

“Go out there and do the best they can — and give us a building block to go off of,” Gessner said.

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