The class is different this season, but the runners are familiar for the Aberdeen Roncalli cross country teams.
The Cavaliers finished seventh in girls’ team points at the Class A state meet last fall. They are hoping to move up the ladder as they move down to Class B for this year’s campaign.
“It’s definitely a goal that we want to work towards, especially the girls’ team,” said Roncalli coach Brady Lesnar. “They’re very excited. I think they see some potential to definitely move up and have a high team placing.”
The girls are led by the Schmidt sisters. The twins who are now sophomores both had a big state meet last season. Paige Schmidt finished third individually, while Sarah Schmidt was 10th.
“They did a lot of prep in the off season this summer,” Lesnar said. “I hope we have another good season.”
The Cavaliers feature solid leadership with three senior runners: Hallie Kuck, Rose Gutenkauf and Elizabeth Russell. All were members of that state tournament team and are already providing good leadership, according to Lesnar.
Additional help will come from Bella Martinez, voted Most Improved Athlete on the track and field squad this past spring, Madison Martin, Emma Vogel and Claire Crawford.
On the boys’ side, the squad does not have any seniors and will be led by juniors, Garrett Griffen and Tyler Berndt.
“They’ve been with the team a number of years. They both were on the state team last year,” Lesnar said. “We don’t have any senior boys. They have to take on that role of being leaders for our underclassmen.”
Key contributions are also expected from Paul Gutenkauf. “Hopefully, he’s going to start hitting his stride,” Lesnar said. “He has a lot of potential and hopefully, we can reach it.”
After that, a group of young runners will be counted on to provide quality races. That crew is led by eighth-grader Isaac Price.
“As a seventh grader, he was our four man that got the team into state last year,” Lesnar pointed out. “He’s a very solid and dependable young man.”
Moving down a class provides some unique dynamics for the Cavaliers this season. It means that the team can only take five runners to state inside of six, and it means competing against a lot more squads in the post season.
“There are definitely some differences. We still have a good-sized squad looking at our numbers compared to what most of the other Class B schools are. Numbers make a difference. We have very good quality numbers. I think that’s going to help us as we move to Class B,” Lesnar said.
That said, Roncalli is not the biggest Class B school around, so it’s not like they will have superior depth compared to everyone else.
“There are B schools that we’ll compete against that are closer to that A line than we are,” Lesnar said. “We are fortunate that we have a good culture and we have kids that want to compete in cross country. Those are the things that really help a program.”
The Cavaliers open their season on Saturday, Aug. 28 at a meet in Mitchell.
Lesnar said the squad has already talked about goals for the upcoming season.
He said he pays attention to various details, not just the final numbers.
“For us, it’s not so much about winning meets and stuff, but what does it look like for our team culture? What are we striving for? Are we pushing each other? Are we responding to what we can do? We want to have a great season. That looks different for everybody,” Lesnar said.
That’s where he breaks the measurement down into two categories.
“A successful season, for me, there’s two paths on that. Where do we end at the end of the season? That’s a pretty general one,” Lesnar said. “The other thing is, what is the climate and the culture of the team? When we’re done in October are the kids saying they had a lot of fun, I got better, I’m excited for next year already? Those are the things that you can’t measure, but you look for as a coach.”
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