Both teams possess talent, experience
The Nevada cross country program is looking to take it to the next level in 2013, thanks to quality experience and good young talent on both teams.
The Nevada boys’ team returns a talented senior core in Lucas Markey, Erik Tanner and Evan Rix. They will lead an experienced group that goes eight or nine runners deep and includes all of the top varsity runners from last year’s squad.
"The boys came into the season in real good shape and we are stronger at this point they we have ever been since I’ve been coach," Nevada head cross country coach Mike Christiansen said. "At this point we have one injury, but we are deep enough that it shouldn’t hurt us. I think the strength on the boys’ side will be our pack, as we should be able to have six or seven athletes in the top 25 at about every race we are in. I really think the boys should be able to win some meets; this team is maybe even stronger than the 2008 team that went to state."
Markey was the top Cub runner a year ago as he earned all-Heart of Iowa Conference honors and ran a season-best five-kilometer time of 17 minutes, 25 seconds. Rix peaked with a time of 17:37 in 2012 and he also finished 16th at the state qualifying meet.
Juniors Zack Hansen, Duncan Westphal and Johordan Ritter also return with some quality experience. Hansen’s top effort in 2012 was 18:39, Westphal topped out at 18:12 and Ritter’s best effort was 19:04.
Senior Josef Lovin and freshman Conner MacVey will also vie for time to fill out the seven varsity spots for Nevada.
On the girls’ side, Nevada brings back its top three runners from a year ago in sophomores Caitlin Dewell and Emily Dittmer, and junior Elli Cassabaum. The Cub girls won’t have the depth of the boys’ team, but they have similar experience coming back, along with excellent talent.
"The girls should also be able to contend for some meet titles and battle Gilbert for the HOIC title," Christiansen said. "The girls are not deep enough that we can have a major injury, so one of the keys will be for us to stay healthy. We are also young, with the varsity being two juniors and five sophomores, but they are all very talented athletes so we have a lot of potential. We’re just going to keep working hard and getting better and see where we land."
Dewell and Cassabaum were both all-HOIC runners and they peaked with respective four-kilometer times of 16:00 and 15:55 last season. Dittmer’s top time last year was 16:55 and Christiansen said she has been the lead runner on the team during preseason practices.
Erin Sellberg, Madison Merfeld and Caroline Goecke all return with varsity experience from a year ago. Goecke’s best effort last year ended up at 16:57.
Christiansen said newcomers Emily Haywood and Nicole Dewell could also battle for a varsity spot.
"The goals for both teams is for us to finish in the top three at the conference meet and go to state," Christiansen said. "Our conference is one of the strongest in the state, so if we can battle with the top teams, we are in good shape."
Nevada’s schedule features several tough meets including Gilbert, Pella, the HOIC meet and, of course, the Nevada Invitational that will be held on Sept. 30 at Hickory Grove.
"There are a couple of meets that I’m looking forward to," Christiansen said. "The Pella meet is a big meet early and will give us a good feel for good we are. Plus that could be our state qualifying course and we will get to see some teams that we may not see again until the state qualifying meet. I’m also excited for the Nevada home meet. This year I feel we are strong enough to battle Grinnell and Dallas Center-Grimes for the meet crown."
Nevada’s season begins Sept. 5 at the Ames Invitational. The meet will take place at the Iowa State cross country course in Ames and it is set to begin at 4:30 p.m.