The cross country squads are small for the Turkey Valley cross country teams with a total of seven reporting for preseason practice, but the quality of competitors look strong for Coach Sarah Bakula who enters her seventh season at the helm.
The Trojans had a small team a year ago as well, with two boys and two girls competing.
In his first season on the courses, Russell Nieman made some noise, finishing in or near the lead pack in nearly every race. At the Upper Iowa Conference meet, Nieman cross the finish line sixth in 18:04.8 to earn All-Conference honors. At the state-qualifying meet, the junior narrowly missed a state bid with an 11th place finish in 18:10.78.
Bode Balk continued to make strides in his long-course races as well, finishing the UIC season 35th in 21:30.1.
For the girls, it was Haylee Hanson and Morgan Wenthold racing throughout the season, capped off by Wenthold, just missing All-UIC honors in 17th place in 23:13.1. At the state-qualifier, Wenthold finished 25th in 24:20.36, while Hanson crossed the finish line 50th in 28:09.14.
Ready to run
“Unity, determination and support for each other are just some of the strengths I see in both squads,” noted Coach Bakula. “We are a small squad, so everyone will have a role to play in success of the team. Keeping the fun alive will help everyone enjoy the season in its entirety.”
With low numbers, Nieman will lead the Trojan boys as he looks to improve on his inaugural season a year ago. Balk, a fellow senior, also returns. Rounding out the small squad are senior Luke Langreck and freshman Nicholas Bernharnd.
There will be a trio of freshmen girls racing — Avery Franzen, Hazel Nieman and Bella Stika, with Hanson back as well.
“Our goal is to have some all-conference finishers on both the boys and girls side,” said Coach Bakula. “We have some huge potential with the newcomers, so I am excited to watch their improvement unfold as the season progresses. The end result of the season is to accomplish our individual goals set and do the best we can.”