Lead runners return for most area teams

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

Scouting this year’s area boys cross country teams:

Herald File Photos
Jackson Miller (pictured) and Drew O’Neil will look to lead the Jasper boys cross country team to a strong postseason run as the two juniors return as the top pacesetters from last year’s squad.

Jasper Wildcats

Last season
Finished second in the Big Eight Conference and second in their sectional; team advanced to both regional and semistate

Opening meet
Today at Vincennes Lincoln Invitational

Returning runners
Dimitry Gordon (Sr.)
William Simone (Sr.)
Luke Summerlot (Sr.)
Eli Anderson (Jr.)
Cameron Eckstein (Jr.)
Cam Kilian (Jr.)
Chase Mehringer (Jr.)
Drew O’Neil (Jr.)
John Summerlot (Jr.)

Key newcomers
Lucas Bauer (Sr.)
Logan Chanley (Sr.)
Andrew King (Sr.)
Reece Mehringer (Sr.)
Bennett Lang (Jr.)
Jeb Schroeder (Jr.)
Ryan Terwiske (Jr.)
Evan Wood (Jr.)
Blake Danzer (Soph.)
Seth Eckert (Soph.)
Connor Booker (Fr.)
Abe Eckman (Fr.)
Reggie Matute (Fr.)
Alex McCullough (Fr.)
Grant Mitchell (Fr.)
Chase Nord (Fr.)
Alex Ramirez (Fr.)

Notable: The Jasper Wildcats have a pretty good amount of depth on their boys cross country team as they enter the 2018 season with 27 members — one short of the 28 they had for last year’s opening meet.

While the Wildcats top two runners are juniors Jackson Miller and Drew O’Neil, head coach Kevin Schipp is hoping the rest of the Cats can gain some distance on the top two as the season progresses.

“We’ve been to semistate the last two years and we want to be our best when we get there,” Schipp said. “We need to have a closer gap though — we’ve had a big separation during our training from the front two to the three, four and five runners. We need to do our best to tighten that up.”

While Schipp has seen a lot of improvement already from O’Neil and Miller during their offseason workouts, he’s been impressed by the work he’s seen from seniors such as Dimitry Gordon, William Simone and Luke Summerlot. The seniors will be battling with juniors such as Cameron Eckstein, Cam Kilian, Ian Henderson and John Summerlot for the final varsity spots.

Quotable: “We’ve had a lot of guys who have put in some work this summer,” Schipp said. “All of those guys will be key for us in being successful this year and they’ve been working hard, having quality workouts and that’s probably been the biggest bright spot of everything so far.”

Sophomore Dylan Bland will enter his second season on Southridge’s boys cross country team with a year of experience under his belt. Bland paced the Raiders with the top time in 12 of their 14 meets a season ago.

Southridge Raiders

Last season
Finished sixth in the PAC and fifth in the sectional; advanced to the regional as a team while Dylan Bland and Cameron Giles advanced individually to semistate

Opening meet
Aug. 21 at home against Shoals, Heritage Hills, Pike Central and Springs Valley

Returning runners
Corbin Neher (Sr.)
Owen Roy (Sr.)
Jaffet Cruz (Jr.)
Dylan Bland (Soph.)
Cameron Giles (Soph.)

Key newcomers
Logan Hunter (Sr.)
Nolan Schoenbachler (Fr.)

Notable: New Southridge cross country head coach Steve Sturgeon has some high goals for the Raiders in his first season and why not?

When you return young sophomore runners Dylan Bland (finished with the top time for Southridge in 12 of their 14 meets) and Cameron Giles (top time at the PAC meet for the Raiders), Sturgeon feels the sky is the limit.

“These guys are all really working hard,” Sturgeon said. “I feel like they’re going to improve in all areas this year and if everyone stays healthy, I think we have a shot to make semistate for the first time as a team in school history.”

While the Raiders haven’t won any boys cross country titles since their PAC crown in 1989, the Raiders graduated just one runner from last season (Brody Voegerl) and return several key members outside of Bland and Giles such as seniors Corbin Neher and Owen Roy as well as junior Jaffet Cruz.

Sturgeon, who graduated from Southridge in 1977 and led the Raiders cross country team from 1975-77, was able to get a few glimpses of the team last year but is now excited to take over the reigns as head coach.

Quotable: “10 years ago I had came in and helped Lee Collins as an assistant coach and then after that is when Leslie (Denu) and Fred (Giles) took over,” Sturgeon said. “But I’ve been fortunate to be called in here and take over with a good bunch of kids — they’ve been putting in the time and working hard.”

Forest Park sophomore Ben Kluesner (left) is one of just two returning members from last year's Ranger squad along with senior Garrett Betz.

Forest Park Rangers

Last season
Finished fifth in the PAC meet, sixth in the sectional while two runners (Ben Becher and Dustin Luebbehusen) advanced to semistate individually

Opening meet
Hosting the Forest Park Invitational on Aug. 16

Returing runners
Garrett Betz (Sr.)
Ben Kluesner (Soph.)

Key newcomers
Nick Sutherlin (Sr.)
Kristian Alegria (Fr.)
Ethan Hall (Fr.)
Brody Klem (Fr.)
Will Krelien (Fr.)
Bryce Troesch (Fr.)
Spenser Wolf (Fr.)

Notable: For Forest Park coach Philip Wolf, this year will be mostly about getting some new blood into the Ranger cross country program.

The Rangers return just two members from last year’s squad in senior Garrett Betz (advanced to regional last year) and Ben Kluesner (doubling as a soccer/cross country runner for second consecutive year) but will have a deep group of freshmen led by Philip’s son Spenser, who will also play for the Rangers soccer squad.

“With Garrett’s experience and Spenser’s work ethic, I’d expect those two to be our go-to guys this season,” Philip said.

For the rest of the newcomers to the Ranger group, coach Wolf has high expectations and expects to see each of them grow every week throughout the season.

Quotable: “I think right now the (newcomers) are iffy about what they can do but I’ve seen a lot of promise in practice,” Wolf said. “My goal for them is to just work on their performances week-by-week since all but one of them (Betz) are in either their first or second year of cross country.”

Northeast Dubois Jeeps

Last season
Finished third in the Blue Chip meet and fourth in the sectional; advanced to regional as a team while Nathan Schnell and Jaydon Arnold advanced to semistate individually

Opening meet
Today at Vincennes Lincoln Invitational

Returning runners
Ethan Breitwieser (Jr.)
Mitchell Schepers (Jr.)
Nathan Schnell (Jr.)
Colby Stafford (Jr.)
Carter Beckman (Soph.)
Pierce Brinkman (Soph.)
Trevor Buechler (Soph.)

Schnell

Notable: While the Northeast Dubois boys cross country squad did graduate two seniors from last year, coach Ben Gessner will go into the 2018 season with seven guys that all have high school experience.

Even though the team is rather small, Gessner believes the team has the ability to make some noise in the Blue Chip and beyond.

“It’s not the biggest squad but I feel like if they keep working hard then they can show some potential,” Gessner said. “It’s all about believing in yourself and seeing what you can do.”

The Jeeps will be led by Nathan Schnell who advanced to the semistate last season as an individual while Trevor Buechler and Pierce Brinkman spent a ton of extra time during the offseason working to improve their times from their freshmen campaigns.

The key for Gessner is to see the group not give in and continue to push to reach their goals, even if they might not have as large of a team as other schools.

Quotable: “I definitely want to be able to take this team to regional or even semistate,” Gessner said. “We have a bunch of guys who have worked very hard this summer so it’d be nice that even if the team doesn’t make it to semistate, hopefully we can send two or three guys individually.”

While Heritage Hillls did graduate one state qualifier (Noah Hufnagel), they will return another as Mitchell Hopf will enter his senior season with a plethora of experience in big meets for the Patriots.

Heritage Hills Patriots

Last season
Finished third in the PAC meet and fourth in the sectional; team advanced to regional and semistate while Noah Hufnagel and Mitchell Hopf both qualified for state individually

Opening meet
Aug. 16 at Forest Park Invitational

Returning runners
Damian Coalter (Sr.)
Mitchell Hopf (Sr.)
Nick Brinkman (Jr.)
Landen Minto (Jr.)
Noah Stiles (Jr.)
Lucas Washington (Jr.)
Elliott Buechlein (Soph.)
Wyatt Koening (Soph.)
Owen Rahman (Soph.)
Eduardo Sandoval (Soph.)

Key newcomers
Bradley Vaal (Sr.)
Eli Wilson (Fr.)

Notable: Heritage Hills coach Kurt Denning knows that losing guys such as Noah Hufnagel, Sam Pinckert and Drew Priest can be tough for a team but when he looks and sees who is returning at the No. 1 spot, he’s a little less worried.

“It’s always hard when you lose that many seniors, especially a guy as talented as Noah (Hufnagel),” Denning said. “But one of the good things is we have Mitchell Hopf coming back who is a state qualifier.”

Hopf will likely be the primary runner for the Pats while junior Nick Brinkman and sophomore Elliott Buechlein are the probable No. 2 and No. 3 in the lineup, but it’s not quite determined yet who will be second and who will be third.

The rest of the lineup is still yet to be formed completely but Denning is excited to see how the Patriots stack up against several other local squads at their opening meet on Thursday at the Forest Park Invitational — especially after seeing how hard the guys have worked in the offseason to try and perfect things as much as they can.

Quotable: “These guys are buying into the fact that hard work is what’s going to make things better  as we get later into the season,” Denning said. “Everyone has been upbeat and showing up everyday. No one is ever like ‘Oh, we have to do that again?’ Instead they’re always looking forward to run.”




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