The Aberdeen Central cross country teams will have a few holes to fill, but the Golden Eagles have a variety of solid runners who will make major impacts this season.
The most decorated returning member is defending Class AA state individual champion Josh Martin. The senior is coming off a solid summer of training and is one of the premier distance runners in South Dakota.
“Josh is a good kid and a hard worker. He had a good summer as far as getting ready for the season,” said Central boys’ coach Greg Murley. “There’s some really good kids in the state that I think are flying under the radar a little bit. It’s not a slam dunk. He’s going to have to run well to defend it.”
Last fall, Martin battled the field and a blizzard to win the state title in the snow.
“He’s just a tough kid. The weather conditions as a junior were really, really good for him,” Murley said. “He doesn’t think about that kind of stuff like a lot kids do and it worked for him.”
Martin lost his running sidekick Daniel Street to graduation, but still will have plenty of help this season.
That top tier includes seniors Ian Ahlberg and Jacob Angerhofer, as well as sophomores David VanVeen and Christian Wells.
“Those are the five returning from our state team last year,”Murley said.
The squad will be looking to shore up its depth.
Additional help will come from a group of Noah Miller, Tino Lopez, Anthony Miller and Alex Heimann.
Murley said some of his runners have had the benefit of seeing what past Central runners have accomplished, like the 2019 squad when the Eagles placed five members in the top 12 at state.
He said the focus right now is on team.
“We’ve tried to make it about the team and be the best we can as a team,” Murley said. “Hopefully, some individuals get some really good accolades out of that.”
Meanwhile, the Central girls will also be looking at developing some depth this year. The team will be led by returning state qualifiers, Alexis Ketterling, Kaylie Peldo and Alyssa Roehrich.
“Those three have good varsity experience. We’re looking to develop some more depth with the varsity. It’s just going to take some time,” said Central girls’ coach Bill Martens. “I think we had a pretty good summer. Our runners have been working hard. They’ve shown some good dedication. They are very motivated with their goals. It’s been a good group to work with. They’re very coachable and very positive.”
Like their male counterparts, the Eagle girls will also focus on team unity.
Martens said individual accomplishments play into team success.
“Obviously, there’s an individual aspect where everybody gets a little better then our team gets better,” Martens said.
Both teams, who start their season Aug. 27 at the Pierre Invitational, will try to make some noise at the Eastern South Dakota Conference meet before trying to peak at the state meet.
Murley believes the Central boys will be right in the hunt.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit of a dogfight and we’re in that mix,” Murley said of the ESD. “I don’t think anyone is going to go into that Saturday thinking that we don’t have a chance.”
The ESD and state are always highlights to the season.
“Our goals are always to compete for the conference title,” Murley said. “We want to win state here in XC before this is over with.”
The Central girls are also planning on being a factor in those two meets again this fall.
“Year in and year out, our team goal is to be top three at ESD and top six at state,” Martens said. “I think we have a really good group of athletes. I’m looking forward to the season.”
One of the reasons for optimism is that Martens knows his runners have the work ethic to reach the potential they possess.
“We have some runners that want to go out and prove themselves and keep some of that tradition going,” Martens said. “They’re excited for the challenges and willing to put in the work, and step up to meet those challenges.”
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