Graduated standouts shouldnâ€™t prevent Rockets from fighting for boysâ€™ and girlsâ€™ championships again
Coming off their best seasons ever, the Cedar Grove-Belgium cross-country teams will need veterans and newcomers this fall to fill the voids created by graduation.
The boys are the defending WIAA Division 3 state champions, and the girls were the state runner-up by one point. Both teams won Central Lakeshore Conference titles in dominant fashion.
Senior Joel Merritt will lead the Rocketsâ€™ boys after finishing second in the CLC and eighth at state. He fills a gaping hole left by Josh Mulloy, a two-time state and conference champion.
Merritt, however, will miss several meets at the start of the season due to an injury.
Also gone is T.J. DuMez, who finished 27th at state and third in conference.
Cedar Grove-Belgiumâ€™s other letterwinners are seniors Richard Beabout (sixth in CLC) and Al Murphy and juniors Alex Holle (seventh in CLC) and Brandon Krauska.
Joe Schueller returns as a letterwinner, and Connor Novack, Zach Johnson and Dan Klingelhoets are also back. Newcomers include senior Zacke Lyons, who coach Ron Wood said â€ślooks to be a potential major contributor,â€ť and sophomores Josh Beaudry and Michael Merritt.
Wood said he has a â€śstrong core to make a run at the CLC championship and get back to state.
â€śBut we need big help from those who were not on varsity last year and from the newcomers to step up and fill in the holes left by Mulloy and DuMez.â€ť
The Cedar Grove-Belgium girls lost five seniors but their top three and No. 7 runners are returning for â€śa solid nucleus,â€ť Wood said.
Senior Marina Paul will shoot for her third conference title and to improve on a seventh-place finish at state. Among her teammates, junior Kiera Depies (CLC runner-up), senior Erika Meinen (eighth in CLC), and sophomore Tammi Del Ponte are all back.
Filling in the gaps are senior Mary Asma, sophomores Chloe Paul and Ashley Weavers, and three new arrivals â€” senior Carina Depies, sophomore Maria Schueller and freshman Kaitlyn McConnohie.
Wood knows the Rockets will be the bullâ€™s-eye of their competition this season more than ever before. But he also realizes his team can succeed despite the pressure.
â€śCertainly, it will be challenging,â€ť he said. â€śBut you stress to the runners to utilize their experience to their advantage, be ready for surprise performances from individuals and teams we run against, rely on what worked well and drop habits that didnâ€™t.â€ť
Wood hopes to use the past success as an advantage.
â€śOur runners will use that to make them stronger while zeroing in on their own race and concentrating on doing the best that they can do regardless of others,â€ť he said.
Both Cedar Grove-Belgium teams will open the season Thursday, Aug. 26, hosting a 4 p.m. triangular meet with Eastbrook Academy and Oostburg.
Young Warriors turn to new coach.
The Ozaukee High School cross-country teams will start the season with low numbers and a new leader.
Chris Raisbeck, who ran cross country at Cassville High School and has been an assistant Ozaukee track coach for three years, takes over the helm. He is also Ozaukeeâ€™s middle and high school choir director.
Raisbeck said coaching â€śgives me a chance to see the kids outside the school day. Everythingâ€™s a little different then.â€ť
Six girls are on this yearâ€™s team, including four varsity veterans â€” senior Ali Hughes and Sarah Brown and juniors Sara Crynock and Carissa Conine.
Hughes finished 30th in the conference meet after battling a leg injury much of the season. She was 50th at state two years ago.
â€śWeâ€™re looking to see what she can do this year,â€ť Raisbeck said. â€śSarah Brown is another good runner.
â€śTheyâ€™re going to be good, strong senior leaders for me.â€ť
Brown placed 38th in the conference last season, when her team finished 10th.
The Ozaukee girls have split into three pairs running together â€” Hughes and Brown, Crynock and Conine and newcomers Marissa Thill and Amanda Lallensack, both juniors.
â€śWeâ€™re just going to kind of see where things fit in. As far as practice, so far Iâ€™ve seen theyâ€™re giving it everything theyâ€™ve got,â€ť Raisbeck said.
He isnâ€™t exactly sure where Ozaukee will fit into the conference race.
â€śLooking at the rest of the conference, I donâ€™t know what to consider a good time for our girls,â€ť Raisbeck said.
â€śWeâ€™re going to give it our best shot. Iâ€™ll know a little more after the first meet comes around.â€ť
The first meet will be the Kettle Moraine Lutheran Invitational at 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26.
The Ozaukee boys have two runners this season â€” junior Doug Grimm, who placed 39th in the conference last season, and senior Vince Cardarelle.
â€śVince is going to be probably just behind Doug. Theyâ€™re going to run together,â€ť Raisbeck said.