With offseason boost, MFL MarMac runners ready to improve 5K times

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Members of the MFL MarMac cross country team include (front, left to right) Alexis Ross, Ruby Koeller, Clare Grau, Sydney Moser, Mya Nelson, Ayla Gerndt, Abby Schellhorn, manager Amber Moeller; (second row) Tricia Bacon, Dusty Berns, Caleb Nordheim, Will Koether, Reilly Franzen, Hunter Kugel, Kaylee Walch; (third row) Logan Ross, Tucker Ruff, head coach Eric Koenig; (back) assistant coach Megan Schellhorn, Bobby Kober and Jacob Schellhorn. Not pictured are Evelyn Ruff, Kaylee Nuehring and Cadence Weber. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


The MFL MarMac boys and girls cross country teams are full of dedicated athletes this season, a strength head coach Eric Koenig said is already paying dividends.


“There are many that participated in summer training, and it has definitely shown,” he said. “The fact that most were already capable of running race distance coming into the season will allow us to work on improving our 5K times versus just trying to complete the 5K distance.”


The team is led by returning state qualifier Clare Grau, a sophomore, who Koenig said is quickly getting back in the groove. Senior Sydney Moser will also be a strong competitor.


“She’s always had the talent to be a state qualifier,” Koenig noted of Moser, “but injuries have held her back the last couple seasons. She’s running great so far and we’re hoping to keep her healthy.”


Sophomores Kaylee Walch, Ruby Koeller and Ayla Gerndt were beginning to come on strong late in the season last year, and have picked up where they left off. 


“They will add real value to the girls team,” the coach added.


New to cross country this year is senior Abby Schellhorn, but Koenig said she did a lot of summer work and looks to be a great asset, as do freshmen Evelyn Ruff and Tricia Bacon.


“They have run cross country before and are really working hard to hang in there with the upper classmen,” said Koenig.


On the boys side, junior Will Koether is MFL MarMac’s top returner.


“He tends to peak later in the season, which is where the athletes should be peaking. He’s running well, and we’ll keep pushing him,” Koenig said.


The Bulldogs also have a strong group of senior leaders in Caleb Nordheim, Dusty Berns, Reilly Franzen and Hunter Kugel. 


Several newcomers should make some noise too, including freshman Jacob Schellhorn, last season’s middle school Upper Iowa Conference champion, as well as junior and first-time participant Bobby Kober.


“[Jacob] has been working hard ever since last season ended and is going to be a top finisher at our meets this season,” Koenig said. “[Bobby] has come a long way in two weeks and has a great mindset that will help him continue to improve.”


Luckily, remarked Koenig, cross country athletes have just one aspect to work on throughout the season: improving their race times. 


“It’s the only stat that matters to us. And since most are in good shape, we will begin to work on race strategy that will help the athletes perform better both individually and as a team,” he said.


The main goal will be to remain healthy. The team has had significant problems with shin splints and hip pain in the past, which has prevented them from running at full strength. Koenig said he and new assistant coach Megan Schellhorn have incorporated new exercises at the beginning and end of every practice that will hopefully help strengthen the athletes’ bodies. 


“We’ve also been very conscious of where we are running, as to try and stay off pavement as much as possible,” Koenig said. “Coach Schellhorn has done great with working on the kids’ mindsets while running. That has been the difference maker in our practices and hopefully will affect how we perform in competition.”


The MFL MarMac cross country teams will kick off their seasons on Tuesday, Aug. 24, at Woods Edge Golf Course, in Edgewood. The Bulldogs will host their only home meet at Tri City Golf Course, near Luana, on Thursday, Sept. 2.

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