With freshman surge, Bulldog cross country will field full girls and boys teams

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Members of the MFL MarMac cross country team are (front, left to right) manager Haylee Guyer, Cadence Weber, Alexis Ross, Kaylee Nuehring, Clare Grau, Rose Grau, Ruby Koeller, Sydney Moser, Amara Buchheit, Ayla Gerndt, Kaylee Walch; (back) assistant coach Michelle Hontz, Hunter Kugel, Reilly Franzen, Koal Klenk, JJ Lynd, Caleb Nordheim, Dusty Berns, Cody Moses, Izayah Streicher, Kole Pape and head coach Eric Koenig. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

The MFL MarMac cross country team boasts 23 kids on its roster this season, with plenty of both boys and girls to field full varsity teams. It’s a prospect sixth-year head coach Eric Koenig is excited about.

“Just being able to field a full boys and girls team in itself is an accomplishment for schools our size,” he noted. “The kids are not only running for individual placement, but also a team score—something more than just themselves. These kids are really supportive of each other and define what a team is, and for us coaches, that’s as exciting to see as their improving performance.”

Ten of those team members are freshmen.

“That young interest in the sport is exciting in itself,” he added.

On the girls side, Koenig said junior Sydney Moser and senior Rose Grau are two runners who will need to step up. 

“Sydney keeps getting closer and closer to qualifying for the state meet,” he commented, “and if she can stay healthy, this may be her year. With the younger girls coming in who can really make an impact, we need Rose Grau to run her best so that we can put together good team scores.”

The two will be joined by a bevy of newcomers, including Clare Grau, Kaylee Walch and Ayla Gerndt, who were part of the MFL MarMac Middle School team that won the 1A state middle school title last season.

Koenig said they have been working hard and are going to make for a competitive girls team. 

“What sets these girls apart from other teams is that they are going to get better as the season goes on,” he remarked. “Right now, they are running against themselves, and once they experience the level of the competition in a meet, they will make the necessary adjustments to improve.”

On the boys side, the Bulldogs lost three of the top performers from a year ago, so Koenig said there are some holes to fill. The team will rely on juniors Caleb Nordheim and Koal Klenk—two of the upper classmen who were running well to end last season.

“They are practicing well and will perform well once meets begin,” shared Koenig. “We’ve also got some incoming freshmen and Will Koether, a sophomore, who’ve got some big shoes to fill, but are definitely going to improve as the season progresses.”

According to Koenig, pace and trust are two areas athletes will work on the most. They’ve run several 5Ks during practice so far, and there have been bursts of energy when the finish line is in sight. 

“That’s great,” he said, “but it also means we are leaving too much energy on the course. We need to trust ourselves and get a better feel for what the pace needs to be in order to maximize our energy.”

The biggest positive, said the coach, is that all the kids enjoy being part of a team.

“I know we do some tough workouts, especially early on, but they take them head on while still maintaining a positive attitude,” Koenig stated. “That’s our biggest strength: establishing a positive and light atmosphere that helps break up the monotony of running mile after mile.”

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