Youth will be key to team’s success
If Blue Earth Area’s boys cross country team improves on last year’s conference and section meet performances, they’ll do it without two standouts.
The Bucs finished third at the South Central Conference championships last year, behind St. James and Waseca.
BEA was in the hunt for a State Team berth at the Section 2A Meet, taking fourth place with 94 points and only three points behind the State-qualifying Fairmont Cardinals.
Gone through graduation are five-time letterwinner Mark Bartley and four-year letterman Jonathan Leitzke.
Head Coach Tom Plocker says it will be tough trying to replace two runners who earned All-Conference and All-Section honors.
Bartley and Leitzke both qualified for the individual portion of the State Meet.
“Our young guys will have to take charge more. They’ll have to set the pace and improve throughout the season,” says Plocker.
The veteran coach, however, hasn’t been left without any talent.
Five of last year’s “Top 7” runners are back; senior Eduardo Vega and sophomores Travis Hagedorn, Riley Holmseth, Aaron Wilhelmi and Wade Wilhelmi.
Hagedorn starts the season as the top letterwinner with three and is 34th on the Varsity Club list.
Vega, Holmseth and the Wilhelmis have all earned two.
On the all-time list, Holmseth is 25th, Vega 26th, Aaron Wilhelmi 33rd and Wade Wilhelmi 36th.
At the SCC Meet, Vega was 14th, followed by Holmseth (19th), Aaron Wilhelmi (23rd), Wade Wilhelmi (24th) and Hagedorn (27th).
Holmseth was able to crack the Top 25 in the Section Meet, crossing the finish line in 23rd place. Vega was six spots back in 29th, while Aaron Wilhelmi was 36th, Hagedorn 38th and Wade Wilhelmi 44th.
The Bucs have only three other runners who have earned a varsity letter.
Senior Garrett Passer has two, as does sophomore Brandon Christians. Junior Jason Mertens has one letter to his credit.
Plocker says this year’s squad has “a lot of potential” and will have to work hard if they want to achieve their goals.
“The boys will have to remain patient, and hopefully peak by the end of the year for the big meets,” he says.
In the conference, Waseca is seen as the team to beat, with Fairmont, St. James and the Bucs in the mix.
In the section, it will be interesting to see which two teams advance to the State Meet at St. Olaf in Northfield in November.
The Bucs are among several teams — Jackson County Central, Fairmont, Martin County West, Le Sueur-Henderson and St. James — vying for a State bid.
“I think we’ll be real competitive,” says Plocker.