CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW: STRIDING INTO FALL
By BRANDON HURLEY
Depth defines some of the world’s greatest contingents.
A surplus of viable options provides necessary optimism with a goal of success more attainable than ever before. Depth also produces competition within, motivating athletes to strive for greatness.
Enter the Greene County boys’ cross country team, a unit bolstered by a veteran presence the program hasn’t experienced in quite some time.
The Rams return nearly their entire roster from a year ago, a group which placed eighth at state qualifying and nearly captured a conference title.
The time is now to succeed. Head coach Jeff Lamoureux expects big things throughout the busy 2021 slate.
“We have several runners who will compete for a varsity spot,” the coach said. “I can already see them pushing each other to get faster and I expect that to continue throughout the season.
This team has high expectations and (they) have set some lofty goals and are working hard towards those goals.”
The Rams graduated just one of their top seven runners from a year ago, placing them in a perfect position to make some much-sought after noise.
With one final go-around this fall, senior Logan Woodruff hopes to build off his 30th place finish at last year’s state qualifying meet. The then junior produced a time of 18:01 the course in Winterset. He heads a pack of other experienced runners such as senior Jayden Carstensen, juniors Dakota Mobley and Ethan Frederick as well as senior Ethan Larsen and sophomore Kolby Angell, all of whom placed in most of last year’s varsity meets.
Greene County’s depth is their strong suit, which could quite possibly lead to a number of breakthroughs.
The veterans dedicated the offseason to furthering their maturity with a focus on conditioning. Lamoureux expects his guys to bank on more stamina than ever before when the season begins next Thursday.
“Many of our runners have put in extra time and mileage this summer,” the coach said. “I think you will see this year an improvement in our endurance. We have also put in more speed workouts to help get out to a quick start and also pick up some points with a strong kick at the end of races.”
Carstensen was one of three Ram runners to place inside the top 50 at state qualifying last fall, producing a time of 18:53 which secured him the 47th spot. Mobley cruised to a time of 18:58, placing him in 50th overall. Larsen placed 73rd while Angell was 79th as a freshman. Woodruff secured an all-Heart of Iowa Conference honor last fall, finishing fifth at the conference meet while the Rams also had two others finish in the top 10 – with Frederick placing ninth and Carstensen sliding in at 10th overall. As a team, the Rams finished runner-up, providing a significant boost to a budding cross country squad.
The pieces are now in place, and the Rams are gunning for an even better showing this fall.
Lamoureux expects a significant leap from Angell as well as some production from a talented freshman duo of Gavin Winters and Noah Hinote, a pair which could push the crop of veterans.
Greene County’s emerging stable of runners has even trickled down to the youth level, with numbers rising at the middle school. Lamoureux plans to host a youth running program in the spring, hoping to keep athletes interested in cross country throughout their high school days.
“It’s been a slower process than I thought,” the coach said of his push to increase cross country participation. “(Our coaches) have done a nice job of promoting our sport and recruiting young runners. We just have to do what we can to keep them out as they enter high school.”
The Greene County girls team has a few more holes to fill with just six girls on the roster, though Lamoureux holds out hope for one or two others to join the fray as the school year nears. The Rams bring back just a pair of varsity letter-winners in Olivia Shannon and Autumn Stevens, both of whom have displayed athleticism throughout the sports calendar. Despite the low numbers, Lamoureux has been impressed with their passion early on.
“These girls are working hard to improve and have dedicated themselves to improve everyday,” the coach said. “They have great attitudes and are all really good teammates, encouraging each other to get better.”
The small numbers do present a problem in terms of team scoring, Lamoureux admits. If his runners suffer any type of injury setback, that could keep the Rams from competing in the team competition. Strong training and stamina are key.
The Greene County co-ed cross country teams open the 2021 schedule with the annual Iowa State Classic Thursday, Aug. 26 in Ames. The annual Greene County home meet will be held Saturday, Sept. 11 at the Jefferson Community Golf Course, a slight change from the past when the competition was held at Spring Lake State Park.
The Class 3A state qualifying meet will be held Wednesday, October 20 at a to-be-determined location. The Class 3A state meet will run the following week on Friday, October 29 along with Class 4A while Class 1A and 2A will run the following day, October 30.