The Morris Area Cross Country team is off and running under new head coach Dale Henrich. The team opened the season Monday hosting an invitational at the Pomme de Terre Golf Club in Morris.
Henrich, while new to the cross country program at Morris Area, is familiar with the sport and many of the runners. He himself ran cross country for three years in high school and has been working with many of the athletes as head coach of the boys' track and field team.
He's already enjoying his new position.
"These track and cross country runners are a nice group of kids," said Henrich. "It makes your job easier when they want to work and be successful."
There are several boys returning to the field, along with a few long distance track runners joining the team for the first time.
Stefan Lemke will lead the boys as team captain. Fellow seniors include Mitch Carbert, Nathan Fangmeier, Steven Sarlette, Austin Schieler, and Alex Sinclair. Juniors are Matt Cotter, Steve Jungst, and Daniel Tiernan. The three sophomores are Sean Brustuen, Jacob Erickson, and John Zierke. Freshmen are Gage Anderson, Roy Reese, Andrew Rentz, and Caleb Sanderson. The junior high squad includes eighth graders Aaron Goulet and Yasha Hoffman, and seventh grader Chris Tiernan.
After losing five runners to graduation, the girls' team is low on numbers in 2009. The team includes junior co-captains Sarah Kuhn and Monserrat Mendez, sophomore Julia Sauder, freshmen Tahni Jungst and MaKenzie Smith, and eighth grader Adrianela Mendez.
Coach Henrich said he is looking for more girls to participate and any wishing to give it a try can "absolutely" still join the sport.
Although the numbers are down, Henrich is not concerned. He expects the roster to be full in a couple years as he has often seen participation happen in spurts.
The cross country season started Monday for 14 area teams at the Morris Invitational.
"It was a perfect day for a run," said coach Dale Henrich. "The weather was beautiful, and the Pomme de Terre Golf course, the site for the race, was in great condition."
Henrich said he heard many compliments of the course throughout the meet.
"This was the opening meet for the Morris Area cross country teams and we used it as a point to take a run at what hopes to be a fun and productive season," said Henrich.
While hosting the event, Henrich was able to do his job and coach the team thanks to plenty of help. Athletic Director Mary Holmberg and former coach Marv Meyer worked hard keeping the meet organized. Many parents and other Tiger supporters also helped make the meet run smoothly.
The girls were missing a few runners on opening night and had an incomplete team score. However, individual times were a success. Sarah Kuhn finished the 4000-meter run in 32nd place with a time of 17:58.05. Monserrat Mendez finished 58th with a time of 20:18.34. Tahni Jungst was 66th with a time of 21:35.13.
The boys were also missing three of their varsity runners, but still managed to finish in ninth place out of a total of 14 teams competing in the 5000-meter race.
Roy Reese placed 18th with a time of 18:18.78. Daniel Tiernan finished 29th with a time of 19:11.42. Nathan Fangmeier placed 44th in 19:53.70. Sean Brustuen placed 65th in 21:29.67. Alex Sinclair finished 77th in 22:22.18. Jacob Erickson was 87th with a time of 24:26.19.
The JV team had four runners finish in the top 10.
"The JV runners have been fantastic," said Henrich. "The team looks strong for the future."
Steve Jungst won the 2000-meter race with a time of 7:20.43. John Zierke placed fourth in 7:38.44. Caleb Sanderson ran a time of 8:09.29 and placed seventh. Andrew Rentz finished ninth with a time of 8:12.07.
Chris Tiernan participated in the seventh-grade 2000-meter race and took 16th place with a time of 9:38.50.