Depth a key for GHS runners

Amy Carton
Tony Gatter returns to the cross country team for his senior year.

Despite a few key losses to the Geneseo cross country teams’ lineup, this year’s crop of runners are picking up right where they left off and are striving to reach their goals.

“Losing Emily Ford (on the girls’ side) is a big hit, along with Maggie Schlindwein, those are big shoes to fill, but we have a lot of depth,” said head coach Don Fredericks. “That depth will be put to the test, and I am very excited to see what this team does. We have some massive competition going on and we will have a very solid girls’ team.

“We lost three of our Top 4 runners (on the boys’ side) so we also took a hit, and we will need people to step up and it will be fun to see how the season goes.”

Coach Fredericks’ expectations for his team this year are to have every runner progress during the course of the season and develop a passion and purpose for the sport. He also wants his team to be running their best at championship meet season time.

Geneseo’s seniors this season include: Chaise Blakley, Payton DeMay, Karl Flynn, Tony Gatter, Sean Geffert, Bryce Gramling, James Hartsock, Mitchell Lamb, Tyler Mahsem, Ryan Petsche, Cortney Backes, Jessa Coulter, Sarah Dellett, Hannah Johnson, Morgan Kelly, Abby Larson and Halle Olson.

“I want to see leadership from the seniors and for them to lead by example and have positive attitudes,” said Fredericks. “The goal is to help the team become better every single day.”

The juniors looking to make an impact this year are: Chris Bagley, David Chenoweth, Josiah Cropp, Raul Falcon, Nolan Fassett, Tom Jackson, Sean Pemble, Mikayla Bowton, Savannah Chapman, Adison Cunningham, Kaytlyn Gramling, Ashley Kempher and Katie Puls.

This year’s sophomore class includes: Keegan Banister, Ethan Baumgardner, Keaton Darin, Charley Elden, Gabe Johnson, Nathan Konvicka, Lindsey Bideaux, Taylor Claus, Lauren Coulter, Jenna Freebern, Molly Lembke, Callie Miller, Madison Miller and Becca Rapps.

“The sophomore girls’ team is absolutely loaded and it will be fun to watch the battle go on because some could break the Top 7,” said Fredericks.

Geneseo’s freshman class could also make some noise at the top of the lineup and includes: Ross Chapman, Bryan Dellett, Keith Elden, Matthew Ganson, Luke Johnson, Nelson Laingen, Sam Murray, Tate Neff, Charlie Schlindwein, Chandler Schwartz, Kyle Sellers, Nathan Soria, Emma Alexander, Megan Coulter, Sally DeBrock, Jessica DuBois, Morgan Hartsock, Katelyn  Mielke and Alexis Perren.

“I want the freshmen to have a good experience and compete at the highest level of their ability,” said Fredericks. “Right now, Nathan Soria is our third man, and Kyle Sellers and Charlie Schlindwein definitely have their sights set on the Top 7.”

The strengths for the girls’ team (with five of the Top 7 returning) this year will be the experience the Lady Leafs return from running at the state finals last year, which coach Fredericks views as priceless, along with a hunger to get back to that level and be competitive in the toughest conference in the state of Illinois.”

“We have some fighters on our hands,” he said.

“The boys’ team will have some big shoes to fill, but we are seeing leadership from captains Mitchell Lamb and Chaise Blakley, and I also challenged the other seniors to be the best leaders they can be.”

The challenge for Geneseo this year will be trying to survive the season, stay healthy and keep improving as the year goes on.

Coach Fredericks views his team’s depth and the healthy competition going on for spots in the Top 7 will only make the squad better.

“I am very excited about this upcoming season,” he said. “We only had four days of practice, but on the girls’ side with who we have back the goal is to run in the state finals. For the guys it is too early to know what is realistic, but dream for the best and prepare for the worst.”

Like in past years in the NIB 12, the Leafs and Lady Leafs will have their hands full with the conference competition.

“We have two-time defending state champs in Yorkville, which return a ton, Kaneland with a phenomenal girls’ team and Dixon also has a great team,” said Fredericks. “For the guys, Yorkville was third at state last year and DeKalb and Dixon also are looking strong.”

Last season, Geneseo sent Jordan Starkey and the girls’ squad to the state finals where Starkey placed 43rd in 15 minutes and 19 seconds. The girls placed 17th overall at state (Emily Ford 70th, 18:37; Halle Olson, 114th, 19:04; Maggie Schlindwein, 122nd, 19:15; Taylor Claus, 126th, 19:17; Lauren Coulter, 140th, 19:32; Katie Puls, 163rd, 19:55; Morgan Kelly, 184th, 20:22). The girls took third as a team at sectionals to advance to state and second in regionals. The boys’ team took fourth at regionals to advance to sectionals as a team.

Geneseo opens the season at the Sterling Grass Relays at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 3.