Cross country outlook strong for PHS boys, girls

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Large numbers and several varsity runners returning give the Plymouth boys and girls cross country program a bright outlook this season.

The girls squad, which numbers 21, returns five of its seven runners who competed in last year’s Division 2 state meet (PHS placed ninth). The Panthers also won a sectional championship.

The boys, with 30 on their roster, have three members back who scored team points in the 2015 East Central Conference and sectional meets.

GIRLS PREVIEW

The Panthers have nine returning letter winners, led by sophomore Amanda Triebensee who was an All-ECC first-team runner in 2015 after placing seventh in the league meet. The squad has four competitors back who were All-ECC honorable mention last season – sophomores Gabi Mella, Lauren Rabe, Izzy Kastelic and Allie Gruttner (all returning letter winners).

Rabe, Mella, Gruttner, Triebensee and Kastelic ran in the 2015 state meet.

“Although we will miss the contributions of graduated senior letter winners Sophie Bolich and Olivia Jankowski, we do have a good, deep group of runners back from last year. We have a large number of runners who enjoyed success last year as young athletes,” said Panther head coach Jay Grosshuesch who is in his 27th season directing the program.

Bolich was a four-time state runner and won sectional and ECC titles last season.

“What will be the key for our team is to have these [returning] girls take things to the next level. Most of them where good last year and really grew into very strong runners as the year progressed,” Grosshuesch.

“This year we have to have them take another step. Ideally if they could start the year where they ended last year and go from there, we could have a nice season.

“Our leaders will be seniors Grace Huibregtse and Kalei Hering. Both are returning letter winners who worked hard over the summer and are great practice leaders for us.

“Our team strength is the large number of new runners we have that are competing very well in practice each day. With many varsity spots that should be open, the inteam competition for these should develop some team depth with a set of varsity runners that should be closely packed in each race,” Grosshuesch said.

He said the top prospects are juniors Hannah Bishop and Carly Lilek who are new runners.

“The real key for us will be to have this pack of runners I anticipate begin closely packed to be in the top half or quarter of all the runners in the race.”

The coach said the team has a great work ethic and attitude.

He pointed out his top goals for the season.

“Our goals are always to have each runner improve each day and the team successes will follow. Coming off a ninth-place finish at state last year, we feel we can put together a quality squad,” said the veteran coach.

Looking at the conference, Grosshuesch said Berlin, Kettle Moraine Lutheran (Jackson) and Winneconne are traditionally good teams. Berlin is the reigning ECC champion. PHS finished second in the conference meet last year.

BOYS PREVIEW

The Panthers return two All- ECC runners from 2015 – junior Gabe Olsen, who earned secondteam recognition, and senior Alan Schaefer, honorable mention.

Schaefer, Olsen and sophomore Noah Baratka scored team points for PHS in last year’s sectional and ECC meets. The Panthers placed third in the sectional and fourth in the conference.

“We have a large team this season with 30 boys on the roster. We do have eight returning letter winners and a strong contingent of new runners this fall,” noted Grosshuesch.

“Our top-two runners should be Alan Schaefer and Gabe Olsen. They ended the year very well last year and are coming off very strong track seasons.

“It is a bit difficult to tell this early but we think we will have enough quality runners to put together a nice team score. The key for us will be to develop our group of new runners to be positive contributors to our varsity team. “

Grosshuesch said the top prospects are juniors Isaac Fintak and Luke Schneider, sophomores Max Hassel and Sawyer Hering, and freshmen Riley Huibregtse and Joe Mertes – all new runners.

“With as many runners as we have we feel that our athletes will be competing strongly for the varsity spots and that should help our team improve and develop,” said the coach.

“Our runners have in the early season been working hard and seem to have great, positive attitudes. We are excited to have so many runners out for the team this year and we are confident the season will be one of growth and improvement.

“Our goal is always to have each runner improve individually and as a result our team will get better.”

He said Waupun, Winneconne and Ripon should be good in the ECC. Ripon edged Waupun, 66-69, to win last year’s conference championship.


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