by Beau Wicker
Logansport girls cross country coach Brian Morrill said the outlook this season for his squad is the best it has ever been in his time at the helm.
“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I think we look pretty good,” he said. “We have 13 girls in the mix for the top seven. I’ve never had that type of competition within the team. They’ve worked harder than I’ve had a group of girls work this summer.”
The Berries got a boost this year when junior Jen Crafford came out for the team. She played volleyball last year.
“Jen Crafford has switched to cross country and she gives us a front-runner presence,” Morrill said. “She should help us in the front of the pack which is very important. She’s been running first or second for us. We need to keep her healthy. She’s had a leg injury that has prohibited the number of miles we would’ve liked her to run. We’ve tried to work around that with elliptical training and the exercise bike a couple days a week. She’s been running well in our time trials and has the school record in her sights.”
Megan Martin has also been standing out in the early season practices.
“I’m expecting Megan Martin to have a really strong senior season. She’s been running with Jen most of the time in training,” Morrill said. “She’s been running in the 21s this year. We should have both girls in the 21s and they might get down in the high 20s.”
The Logan coach said there’s a logjam following his top two runners and the runners are finishing in different places at nearly every practice.
Alanna Echols, Courtney True, Ashlyn Lythgoe and Maddi Zartman look to have varsity spots. Zartman was the team MVP a year ago and Morrill said she is on the mend from injury.
Abbi Zartman, Jennifer Kreighbaum and Gracie Musselman are also in the mix.
“Time will tell, but hopefully they can get into the 21s. It’s certainly a possibility,” Morrill said. “If they do that we’ll probably be in contention for a sectional championship.”
The Berries have a lot of competition within the team for varsity spots and the numbers are good altogether as there are 28 girls out for the team.
“We have a big team. I didn’t think it’d be that big but we have a lot of freshmen out,” Morrill said. “One that is running really well, not varsity yet, but maybe by the end of the season is Madi Brown.”
The Berries are shooting for an improved position in the North Central Conference and hope to be strong contenders for a sectional championship.
“We’ve finished third in the conference the last two years. It’ll be tough to beat Huntington, they’ve got about a 10-year streak and have been to the state meet five times during that time. We’d like to move up to the second position,” Morrill said.
“When the sectional comes around we’ll be able to contend at the sectional. We finally got the Neeley girls to graduate from Eastern. It’ll be different without them running up front. There will be a couple other good teams there. We’ll have our hands full but we’ll be in the hunt.
“We’d like to get to the semistate. We’ve never been there as a team and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
The Kings have once again been hit pretty hard by graduation but do have semistate qualifier Gabi Carney back for her senior season.
“We took a big hit losing two really good girls in Breanne Robertson and Jenna Yeakley, but we’ve got Gabi Carney back who was honorable mention all-state,” Cass coach Don Bonsett said. “Junior Haley Johnson is also back. They’ll lead the way for us. They put in a lot of miles this summer.”
Sophomores Makenzie Hoch and Megan Greer are also back for the Kings. After the top four are a group of freshmen.
“Our freshmen lack a cross country background and race experience but they’ve been practicing with us,” Bonsett said. “We’re not going to be quite as strong as we’ve been team-wise. But the good thing is we have Gabi and Haley and hopefully some of the freshmen step up all right and we’ll round out a decent team. We won’t be as strong as last year or the year before but we’ll be respectable.”
The Comets are getting a boost with the addition of freshman Adrianna Dague, who was the junior high county champion last year.
“I’m expecting big things from her the next four years,” Caston coach Mark Smith said. “We’re trying to progress her on an even keel and not build her up too fast. We don’t want her to get hurt.”
The Comets also have Marli Leazenby back out for the team after she skipped last year and also Jenna Showley out for the team. She’s ran track but is trying cross country for the first time. Smith said Leazenby and Showley are fighting it out for the second spot.
Freshman Krysta Schanlaub is also out for cross country for the first time.
“She’s another basketball player that is out to get in shape for basketball,” Smith said. “I told her to come out and get in shape because I need the numbers.”
The Comets also have a foreign exchange from Brazil out for the team. So they’ve got five out for the team and Smith hopes to add two more soon to have a full team.
The Panthers, like the Comets, have a standout freshman that will give the team a boost.
“Our No. 1 runner is freshman Haley McWherter. She’s been running with the back half of our top boys,” Pioneer coach Wes Carden said. “We look to get her out of the sectional.”
The Panthers got a tough break when they lost their No. 1 runner from a year ago, Gabby Harvey, to injury. The sophomore suffered a hip injury during track that turned into a reoccurring injury and will sit out cross country. Another one of their top runners from a year ago did not come out for the team to focus on cheerleading, according to Carden.
“We would have been pretty strong if we would have had those two back,” he said.
But the Panthers do have a full team. Other members of the team are juniors Madison Vontobel, Kayla Miller and Sydney Young and sophomores Maddie Boucher, Ashley Speicher and Brianna Rude.