Newcomers bring increased enthusiasm to Bulldog cross country team

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Members of the MFL MarMac cross country team include (left to right) Sydney Moser, Jordan Schubert, Keri Picha, Kayleigh White, Miqenzie Gilberts, Amber Hickman, Lauren Gillitzer, Ellie Kinley, Keagan Moose, Hannah Schutte, Caleb Nordheim, Colin Moses, Keagan Smerud, Jesse Breuer, assistant coach Ralph Hill and head coach Eric Koenig. Not pictured is Logan Brown.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

There’s a renewed interest in cross country at MFL MarMac this year, said Eric Koenig, who’s taken over as the team’s head coach after three years as an assistant. 

“We have some kids who took a break for a year who are back, and we’ve got some upperclassmen out who have never participated in cross country before,” said Koenig, who will be joined by first-year assistant Ralph Hill. 

Although new to cross country, Koenig said junior Jordan Schubert and senior Lauren Gillitzer are good athletes who he expects to make a big impact. Kayleigh White, who took the past year off, also has the athleticism to get back in the groove quickly, he added. 

“Sydney Moser and Caleb Nordheim are two freshmen who are already standing out and could have a lot of success this year and in years to come,” he shared. 

Koenig said there are five to seven girls who have the potential to be a team threat at meets. That includes Schubert, Gillitzer, White and Moser, as well as senior Hannah Schutte. 

“Hannah is our only returning runner with state meet experience,” he commented, “and she appears to have come back this year refreshed and has really established herself as a leader.” 

Nordheim, along with sophomore Colin Moses, are setting the pace for the guys, and should continue to get better as the season progresses, Koenig said. 

“We are a week in, and already the kids are running better 5K times than they did at the peak of last season,” he noted. 

Faster times mean better placing at meets, which is something the team will work to improve upon, he said. They’d like to reverse the trend of both lower individual and team placements. The girls will look to average 22- to 23-minute 5Ks as a team, while the guys will look to hit the 20- to 21-minute average. 

“If we can hit those marks, we will be much more competitive than we have in years past,” Koenig said. 

Koenig said he’s most excited about his team’s enthusiasm, a feeling that’s evident in the number of newcomers. 

“We are trying new things for practice this year, and I see the kids having fun and challenging themselves,” he stated. “As a coach, I believe my purpose is to guide them and design a program that sets them up for success. How hard they work and how much success they want to achieve is completely up to them, and, so far, they are putting in the effort.”

The Bulldogs’ first meet will be at Tri City Golf Course, in Luana, on Thursday, Aug. 30, beginning at 5 p.m.

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