The 2018 cross country season was a challenging one for a Colo-NESCO program that entered the season with a lot of inexperience on both teams.

The Royal girls also battled depth issues that were compounded by the injury bug. Hip injuries prevented senior Claire Skinner and junior Emma Stalzer from competing, and also hampered junior runner Emily Brinkman throughout the season.

Constant weather problems during the first half of the season also made it difficult for the girls’ team to gain any momentum.

“It was a frustrating season,” Colo-NESCO head cross country coach Tony Stalzer said. “The weather did not work in anyone’s favor. We had three meets cancelled and we had a couple meets where the course was not in good condition because of the rain.”

The Colo-NESCO girls were led by senior Faith Vincent. Vincent was the fastest runner at every meet, running a 5-kilometer time of 26 minutes, 43 seconds at the Iowa Star Conference meet, 25:17 at the Class 1A state qualifying meet in Marshalltown and peaking with a 24:39 at South Hamilton.

Vincent and Skinner were both part of highly successful Royal teams in their first two seasons. Stalzer credited the two seniors with providing great leadership as the team went through a difficult season this fall.

“Both of these girls have been with the program since seventh grade and they had been a big part of the success of this program,” Stalzer said. “They have been a part of two conference championships and two teams that ran at state.”

Brinkman ran a 30:20 at the ISC meet and turned in her best time of 28:32 at the qualifying meet. Sophomore Jenna Banks clocked in at 28:37 at the qualifying meet and her fastest time was 27:56 at Madrid.

Freshman Mea Skinner and Emma Cerka were the only other two varsity runners for the Royal girls.

Mea finished the ISC meet in a season-best time of 30 minutes flat and ran a 32:30 at the qualifying meet. Cerka also ran a 32:30 at the qualifying meet and her fastest time was 30:24 at the conference meet.

“Jenna Banks had a good sophomore year and really started to put it together before an injury had her out for a couple meets,” Stalzer said. “Our freshmen, Emma Cerka and Mea Skinner, did a tremendous job learning how to run the 5K race. I look forward to see these kids improve in the future.”

Next season, the Royal girls figure to have better depth as they attempt to become a more competitive program.

“We have a solid group of underclassmen that are going to lead our team next year and we will have a group of eighth-graders coming in that will bolster our lineup,” Stalzer said.

The Colo-NESCO boys were also hampered by youth and the weather, but they were helped by having stronger numbers than the girls.

“Our boys’ team had a really good learning year,” Stalzer said. “They learned what is it going to take to get to be a good team. We did a lot more mileage runs this year and the guys understand that is what is going to make them better. We aren’t where we want to be right now, but this group of kids knoww what they have to do to get there.”

Sophomores Chevy Dunlap, Ryan Wonders and Jacob Reischauer were joined by juniors Luke Hill and Shawn Gilbert, freshmen Ben Rouse and Alex Rouse and senior Scott Miller as the varsity competitors the Royal boys.

Dunlap ran a 5-kilometer time of 20:39 at the ISC meet, turned in a 20:23 showing at the qualifying meet and topped out at 20 minutes flat at South Hamilton. Wonders finished in 20:23 at the conference meet, 20:12 at the qualifying meet and peaked with a 19:47 showing at South Hamilton.

Reischauer’s fastest time was 21:08 at the ISC meet and he also ran a 21:21 at the qualifying meet. Hill peaked with a 22:05 showing at South Hamilton and he also ran a 22:44 at the conference meet and 22:16 at the qualifying meet.

Gilbert turned in a season-best time of 20:59 at the qualifying meet and he finished the ISC meet in 23:10. Ben Rouse ran a 21:39 at the qualifying meet and his best effort was 21:15 at the ISC meet.

Alex Rouse ran his best time of 22:51 at South Hamilton and he turned in a 23:41 at the conference meet.

We are young and growing and that can be tough for a team to overcome,” Stalzer said. “But these guys kept their focus throughout the season on growing as runners.”

Miller produced a 25:57 at the ISC meet and 25:03 at the qualifying meet and his fastest showing was 24:50 at South Hamilton. Stalzer said it will be tough to replace the leadership of his lone senior.

“Scott has been with this program since seventh grade,” Stalzer said. “He has learned through those years how to be a leader and this year he did a great job.”

But with everyone else back, the Colo-NESCO boys figure to be much stronger in 2019.

“The sky’s the limit for this team,” Stalzer said. “Juniors Luke Hill and Shawn Gilbert have good seasons and I will be looking to them to be our leaders next year. Sophomores Chevy Dunlap, Jacob Reischauer and Ryan Wonders are the heart and soul of this team — they made a lot of improvements from last year and I look forward to them making another big leap next year. Freshmen Alex and Ben Rouse had a good first year on the 5K course and they will be counted on more in the future.”