Returning to the Decorah boys cross country team for 2023 with a letter are (front, l-r) Riley Berns, Garrett See, Oliver Bollinger, Grant Zilka, Aidan Nalean-Carlson, Mitchell Stemper; (back) Peter Essa, Tommy Hammel, Henry Weis, Davis Coppola, Landyn Hook and Reid Berns. (Photo courtesy of Tami Bohr)
There will be an exciting group of athletes to watch who represent the strong tradition of Decorah boys’ cross country in 2023.
Brad Johansen is in his eighth year as the head coach, with assistant coach Tim Hayes.
With nine returning letter winners and three athletes who ran in Fort Dodge the year before, Decorah looked poised for a strong season in 2022.
During the regular season, the Vikings had several underclassmen come on strong and fight for a spot on varsity.
Under windy conditions in Fredericksburg, the Decorah boys posted a solid effort finishing second with 55 behind Waukon who tallied 32. The Vikes had four harriers earn All-NEIC by finishing in the top 15, including Cade Olson who was fifth, Davis Coppola in eighth, Henry Weis in 12th and Grant Zilka in 14th.
Posting 126 points, Decorah saw their season end at the state-qualifying meet in Manchester, as the Vikes finished fifth overall. Solon ran away with the title with 40 points. Olson led Decorah to the finish line in 24th place in 17:27.72 with the next five members finishing 28th through 32nd. Weis toured the course in 17:30.97 (28th) just ahead of teammate Jake Magner, who crossed the finish line in 17:35.01. Landyn Hook had a time of 17:36.59 in 30th place, followed by Coppola in 31st with a time of 17:40.99. Also on the course were Zilka (32nd, 17:41.76) and Garrett See (35th, 17:50.40).
The Vikes lost some key ingredients to their squad to graduation, including Jake Magner, Cade Olson, Benson Newhouse, Raven Battle, Lange Betts, Carter Kowitz, Nathaniel Meyers, Brock Taylor and Max Wilson.
Coach Johansen believes the large turnout in the number of athletes set to compete, along with the quality, is one of the Vikes’ biggest strengths.
“The seniors will need to prove to everyone they are ready to lead and are willing to put the effort forward to produce a successful team,” added the Viking coach.
Returning with a letter to help lead the way are seniors Henry Weis, Peter Essa and Aidan Nalean-Carlson, along with juniors Davis Coppola, Thomas Hammel, Landyn Hook, D’Mitry Lesser and Grant Zilka.
“On paper we should be able to put up a competitive challenge by the end of the season. It will be fun to have great competition so close to home,” said Coach Johansen. “Times have changed and athletes who only run during the season are left in the dust of competitors from other schools who train year-round. We are lucky to have a positive running culture in Decorah and our athletes will make great efforts to improve during the season. Barring any unforeseen circumstances we will have a strong team by the end of the season.”
Decorah will have its hands full when it comes to winning its sixth straight Northeast Iowa Conference title, as defending champion Waukon returns with many of its squad from last season.
Tying up the laces for the 2023 season for the Decorah boys cross country team are (front row, l-r) Noah Vilardo, Keagan Steines, Jack DeLaRosa, Esteban Fernandez, Liam Huang, Owen Rix, Evan Madsen, Noah Potvin, Kyan Oftedahl, Spencer Christensen, Kelton Casterton, Kyle Pattison; (middle row) Jack Sovern, Phuong Doan, Garrett See, Carson Bohner, Mitchell Stemper, Oliver Bollinger, Davis Coppola, Max Grimstad, Will Robinson, Riley Berns, Reid Berns, Beau Newhouse, Grant Zilka; (back) Coach Tim Hayes, Peter Essa, Henry Weis, Aidan Nalean-Carlson, Lucas Arendt, Nathan Swarbrick, Lucas Hanson, Adam Walter, Doug Bentley, Landyn Hook, Tommy Hammel, Ezra Vorvick, Alex McGohan, Travis Nordheim, Andrew Olson, Montana Jump-Gerleman and Coach Brad Johansen. Not pictured is Keaton Nalean-Carlson. (Photo courtesy of Tami Bohr)