BEA Cross Country prepares for a good season
Blue Earth Area’s cross country teams are already hard at work with early morning practices and participating in the boys and girls varsity invitational last Friday in Fairmont. Although this year will be different, especially for the girls team.
The varsity girls running distance has increased from 4K (2.5 miles) to 5K (3.1 miles), thus equalizing the race distance for boys and girls in cross country.
According to head coach Tom Plocker, there are now only five states where the girls race a shorter distance than the boys.
“This will be a fairly significant change for the girls in Minnesota, but one they will adapt to successfully,” says Plocker.
The cross country team will need as much energy as they can get which is why Plocker has announced their team theme to be coffee.
“Each day we are likening one of our athletes to a particular coffee drink, highlighting their particular ‘flavors’ they have that will ‘energize’ the team,” says Plocker.
BEA’s new assistant coach for the season is Will Howieson, who became a Buc by becoming the newest high school math teacher this past January. Plocker says Howieson is a Maple River cross country alum and a University of Minnesota Duluth graduate.
“He is also an avid runner who has completed several marathons and is currently training for the Twin Cities Marathon in October,” shares Plocker. Returning assistant coaches Dan Ristau and Stacie Hassing will also be guiding the cross country teams with their expertise during the course of the season.
Senior captains for the 2015-16 cross country season will be Adam Buseman and Zach Vaske for the boys team and Taylor Grandgenett and Shayna Stevermer for the girls team.
Vaske is a two-time All-Conference runner in cross country who Plocker says has developed into one of the top runners in the area. Buseman, a six-year vet, has been encumbered by injuries the past few years, but his coach insists he has had a successful summer of running and looks primed for a senior campaign.
Alan Davids, another BEA senior, burst onto the cross country scene in 2014 as a rookie junior and, according to head coach Plocker, quickly became a quality and consistent varsity member.
Varsity contenders for the boys team this year will include eighth grader Grant Strukel who has come off a solid track season, eighth grader Brady Olsen who had a medal-winning race at Milaca last cross country season, and junior Seth Becker will return as a reliable runner on the varsity team. Freshman Gunnar Fering will return to cross country as well, after earning Most Improved honors in track and field last spring.
Veterans returning for the season include sophomore Sam Welker, freshmen Erick Becker and Blake Townsend, and eighth grader Thomas Lindsey. They will all be seeking varsity spots this season.
Newcomers on the boys team include sophomores Jacob Dikken, Braydon Larson, and Mikah Larson as well as seventh graders Brady Bromeland, Cameron Germain, and Caleb Yates who will, according to Plocker, be training consistently and competing fiercely on the boy’s team.
The girls team, lead by the dynamic duo of seniors Grandgenett and Stevermer, each with multiple All-State track and field honors, will also have junior Mariah Halvorson who, according to Plocker, was BEA’s No.1 runner in almost every cross country meet last year. Freshman Marissa Waddell joined the team late last year but quickly established herself as one of the Bucs’ best runners and will join the varsity squad.
Also returning to varsity are sophomore Melissa Hagedorn and freshman Callie Stevermer.
Returners for the girl’s team includes freshmen Mariah Albertson and Amanda Jacobson who, according to their head coach, look much improved already this year. Fellow classmate Gabby Weerts will also be joining them, along with freshman Emma Germain who has cross country experience from her time in Pipestone.
Other veterans of the girl’s cross country team will be sophomores Justina Gaydon and Lindsey Phillips, along with freshmen Hayley Jahnke and Ariana Nagel.
New faces for the girl’s team include those of seniors Nyla Anderson (after a one-year hiatus) and Jasmine Garcia, along with eighth-grader, Lauren Schavey.
As far as predictions for competition this year, Plocker says it’s hard to say.
“This year the Minnesota State High School League sports sections were realigned, and perennial Section 2A power, Waseca, was moved to the larger class,” says Plocker. “So, it’s a little tough to make predictions, but Glencoe-Silver Lake, Jordan, Belle Plaine, Fairmont, and Mankato-Loyola-Cleveland look to be some of the top teams heading into the season.”
Plocker says that he is focusing the team on gradually improving over the course of the season so the teams can run their best races at the end of October.
“I feel that we can have pretty competitive teams and individuals by season’s end.”
As for Plocker, it is his 28th year coaching, which he says is a blessing.
“It makes me sound old, but it is simply a blessing to be able to plan workouts, help students improve, and try to make cross country a valuable, enjoyable experience for all involved.”
BEA will play host to only one meet this cross country season. The Buc Invite will be held Tuesday, Oct. 13 at the Riverside Town and Country Club in Blue Earth.