Strong numbers have Bulldogs fielding full boys, girls cross country teams

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Members of the MFL MarMac cross country team include (front, left to right) Sydney Moser, JJ Lynd, Koal Klenk, Reilly Franzen, Isabella Bogdonovich; (middle) Hunter Kugel, Joe Grau, Keri Picha, Kayleigh White, Rose Grau, Kashton Mathis, Will Koether; (back) assistant coach Monica Schwartzhoff, Colin Moses, Dusty Berns, Keagan Smerud, Jordan Schubert, Kayden Gillitzer, Caleb Nordheim, Jesse Breuer, Logan Brown and head coach Eric Koenig. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

This season, for the first time in recent years, MFL MarMac will field full boys and girls cross country teams.

“And what’s better,” said head coach Eric Koenig, “we’ve got a solid five boys and five girls who have the potential to score well as a team at every meet.”

Koenig said the team is full of kids who enjoy running and pushing themselves to get better. A great group of seniors has emerged as real leaders, and they’re setting good examples for the younger athletes, he added. The underclassmen also have a lot of talent, and they aren’t afraid to work.

“What I enjoy most about coaching cross country at MFL MarMac is that we capture the true meaning of a team,” Koenig said. “I have a hard time telling the age difference between the kids because they are such a close-knit group and everyone supports each other. I credit this environment to the upper classmen who check their egos at the door and make sure cross country is a safe environment for everyone to participate in and grow as individuals and athletes.”   

On the boy’s side, Koenig sees junior Colin Moses and sophomore Caleb Nordheim as two returners who will make an immediate impact.

“They’ve been practicing well and will pick up where they left off last year as the leading performers,” he said.

The two will be joined by a bevy of new athletes from all grades. Junior Koal Klenk, sophomore Kashton Mathis and freshmen Will Koether and Joe Grau have stood out to Koenig so far.

Sophomore Sydney Moser was MFL MarMac’s leading performer on the girl’s side last season, and Koenig anticipates that run to continue. Junior Rose Grau and seniors Jordan Schubert and Kayleigh White were also solid contributors a year ago, and have shown strong improvement.

“With the addition of some new athletes to the team, we’re going to have a competitive group of girls,” Koenig stated.

Among the newcomers is junior Kayden Gillitzer, whom Koenig said should do well once she trusts her abilities. 

“Newcomers to the sport are often intimidated when they hear the distance of the race, and they tend to pace themselves in order to make it through the race instead of trusting their abilities and powering through a race,” he explained.

Sophomore Isabella Bogdonovich will be another runner to watch. She’s made the most progress since the start of practice, noted Koenig, and he believes she’ll continue to improve as the season progresses.

Aside from new runners, Koenig said the addition of assistant coach Monica Schwartzhoff and middle school coach Ashley Simon is also noteworthy.

“The new ideas and positive energy that they bring to the team has already shown to be a difference maker,” he shared. “We’ve got a couple really good first-year coaches that are going to contribute a lot to the reason why this year’s team is going to continue to get better from week to week.” 

Luckily for cross country, Koenig said coaches and athletes have an easy way to measure progress throughout the season, and that’s through 5K times.

“As a coach, I’m excited to see the kids begin to compete because they’ll have had nearly four good weeks of practice by the time the first meet comes around,” he concluded, “and they’ve all made good progress up to this point.”

The MFL MarMac boys and girls cross country teams will run their first meet this Thursday, Sept. 5, at Tri City Golf Course near Luana. 

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