Friday, August 10, 2018

2018 SCAL Cross Country Preview

The Shelby County Preview hosted by Russia opens the season on August 21st

Even though many local cross country runners have been conditioning since the beginning of July, official practice got underway August 1st and it looks to be another exciting season for both the high school girls and boys. Last year you may remember I predicted the D-III girls in this area would be as loaded as they've been in long time. That was never more evident than the District Meet when an absolute bumper crop of young talent emerged and a couple weeks later the perennial favorite Minster Lady Wildcats took home the gold trophy at state. The local boys teams were strong as well, only it was juniors and seniors who seemed to shine the brightest in the biggest races.

The Shelby County Athletic League had a fantastic 2017. On the girls side, Ft. Loramie broke Russia's 5-year streak winning the league title and followed that up with an impressive 4th-place finish at the state meet. The Lady Raiders kept a different streak in tact however, qualifying for the state meet a remarkable sixth consecutive year. On the boys side, Ft. Loramie rode the momentum from their state title in 2016 and won the SCAL, District, Regional, and finished 7th at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. The Houston boys also became a team on everyone's radar and wrapped up their season with the program's first-ever trip to state.

This year the SCAL girls return a majority of the talent from 2017 and below are my top five runners I'll be keeping my eyes on when the Preview opens the season on Tuesday, August 21st:

Houston senior Hollie Voisard had a breakout season in 2017

Everyone around Shelby County will be pointing at the Ft. Loramie girls as the team to beat in the league. In addition to the three runners listed above, sophomores Corynn Heitkamp and Caitlyn Gasson are back from fantastic freshman seasons and will likely be challenged by 3-4 new freshman making their debuts. I envision Russia securing that second spot in the SCAL with seniors Claire Meyer and Anna Fiessinger chasing Becca Seger to give the Raiders a nice top three. The key for Russia will be their 4 and 5 runners who appear to be junior Clare Caldwell and perhaps freshman Ella Hoehne at this point. Botkins is super young and a real question mark for me right now. The Lady Trojans have a lot of potential and I see sophomore Emma Koenig as their leader this fall. Houston has a bona fide star in senior Hollie Voisard who I expect will make a return trip to state. The Lady Wildcats also bring in freshman Ava Knouff who won a number of junior high races the past two seasons. Finally, the Anna girls are in rebuilding mode in my opinion and their best performers just might be freshman this year.

The SCAL boys were hit a little harder with graduation this past spring, but my top five include an impressive list of veterans and one underclassman I'm looking forward to watching in a few weeks:

Jake Rethman and Joe Ballas lead a strong senior class in the SCAL

This might sound redundant, but the league favorites on the boys side is Ft. Loramie. They've won the previous three years and even after graduating two of their top four from 2017, I believe junior Jordan Drees steps up to #3 for the Redskins this year and will be followed by senior Gavin Schulze and junior Evan Luthman. Challengers for the SCAL title will be plentiful however, and I'll start with Houston and the 18 boys that showed up for the first day of practice. Along with the two seniors above, throw in classmate Jacob Slater, and juniors Blake Jacobs and Patrick Meiring all back with experience from state and hungry to return. Botkins graduated their top runner and only state representative from last year in Austin Fullenkamp. No need to feel sorry for the Trojans though because Austin's brother Alan is back after a great freshman season, as are junior Elliott Goubeaux and sophomores Donovan Brown and  RJ Poeppelman. By the way, the black & gold are oozing with talent in the freshman class having five of the top eleven 8th-grade runners in last year's league meet. Anna is another program smiling about their youth. After junior Jacob Robinson mentioned above, I believe three freshman will have a big impact beginning with last year's SCAL junior high champ Lucas Smith, Colin Frilling and Holy Angels transfer Hayden Schmidt. Russia has a rich tradition of success, but after a 6th-place finish in last year's SCAL, the Raiders have plenty of work ahead once again. Top returnees are senior Gavin George and junior Andrew Deloye, along with sophomores Nick Caldwell and Jonathan Bell. Jackson Center will look to an athletic duo to lead them in junior Christopher Elchert and senior TJ Esser. Lastly, at Fairlawn I anticipate their top runner to be sophomore Alan Asher.

Finally, like every year, I'm certain there will be a lot of surprises and a few disappointments as the 2018 season flies by. The only thing for sure is that Fish Report will be tracking it all from August through November. Stay tuned for more and get out to a race if you can!

Lucas Smith of Anna and Olivia Borchers of Ft. Loramie are fab freshman to watch

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