All early signs point to another promising season for both the St. Edmond boys and girls cross country programs.
Despite a memorable 2011 campaign, Mike Szalat's Gaels will try to raise their level of success even higher this time around.
After competing in Class 1A a year ago, SEHS has now moved back up to the 2A ranks.
Last fall, the Gael boys captured their third district crown in the past five years. The green and white also advanced to state for a fourth time since 2007, where they turned in the best finish in school history with a third-place effort.
"With our 2-7 runners back, I think the boys team has pretty high expectations coming off third-place at state," Szalat said. "Moving up to 2A is going to be a big adjustment, and will obviously affect where we end up. Getting that first trophy is fun, but it makes you want to get another one, too. Our focus right now is to see if we can't still get in the top three in 2A. We're looking forward to being able to repeat the feat."
Pacing the St. Edmond boys lineup are seniors Seth Reel and Colten Lastine, juniors Kaden McClintock and Casey McEvoy and sophomores Jacob Hamilton and John Eide.
2012 ST. EDMOND CROSS COUNTRY
Gael Boys Roster
Seniors - Zach Benjamin, Colten Lastine, Seth Reel, Cory Woodhouse.
Juniors - Patrick Hancock, Parker Huebsch, John-Michael Li, Casey McEvoy, Jake McEvoy, Kaden McClintock, Jacob Meyer, Jacob Sande, Adam Willerth.
Sophomores - John Eide, Jacob Hamilton, Ryan Szalat, Nate Yetmar.
Freshmen - Sam Blair, Colin Birzer, Devin Camamo, Chase Craven, Jake Duarte, Colin Flattery, Reid Johnson, Nick Lenane, Alex Loerts, Harrison Mayer, Michael McCarville, Teagan Perrin, Evan Pott.
Gael Girls Roster
Seniors - Theresa Birzer, Mary Eide.
Juniors - Mary-Claire Li, Maddie McCarville, Cassie Sells.
Sophomores - Sarah Benjamin, Jill Doyle, Mya Lacina, Alexis Perrin, Kara Salinas.
Freshmen - Leah Cosgrove, Madi Reel, Carter Waddell, Rachael Willerth.
Aug. 23 - at Manson Northwest Webster, 5 p.m.; 28 - at Webster City, 5 p.m.
Sept. 8 - CYO at Holstein, 9 a.m.; 17 - at Humboldt, 5 p.m.; 24 - at Algona, 5 p.m.
Oct. 2 - at Eagle Grove, 4:30 p.m.; 9 - NCC at Bishop Garrigan, 5 p.m.; 18 - Districts.
Reel, a district runner-up last season, settled for sixth at state a year ago with a new school-record clocking for a junior in 16:26. He previously finished 52nd at state as a sophomore. This past spring, Reel also reached state individually for the Gael track team in both the 800 and 1600.
"Seth has been a really good leader, and is excited and ready to go," said Szalat. "He has that upbeat and positive outgoing personality. Last year kind of opened up his eyes to what he can do as an individual after always being more of a team guy. Seth isn't very selfish, which is what you need to be sometimes if you know it can improve the team. If I could have somebody totally selfish or a team guy, though, I'd take Seth every time."
Lastine has also been a member of three SEHS state squads, while McClintock, McEvoy, Hamilton and Eide competed on the big stage at Lakeside Golf Course a year ago.
Filling the glaring void left by the departure of standout Nate Kolacia presents an unenviable task for the Gaels. Kolacia, a school-record holder and 2011 North Central Conference champion, was a three-time state participant and back-to-back district gold-medalist. Kolacia won six races as a senior and took home state bronze last season.
"We have 30 kids out that want to work hard every day, and it's a dogfight for those top seven spots," Szalat said. "Other times, we've had kids out just for social reasons that tried to cut the route short. We don't have one bad apple in the bunch this year."
On the girls side, St. Edmond is anchored by senior Mary Eide, freshman Madi Reel, sophomores Kara Salinas and Jill Doyle, junior Mary-Claire Li and senior Theresa Birzer. Eide ran on the Gaels' 2009 state team, which earlier won a second consecutive district championship. As a junior, Eide finished third in 1A state singles tennis play. She was ninth as well in the 2A 1500 at state track.
"We only have 14 girls out, so we'll have to lean quite a bit on Mary, who's coming off a fantastic track season," said Szalat. "She's far and away above the rest of the girls right now. As a result, I see us as more of a pack team this year than we've been in the past with maybe two or three strong runners. I haven't really put a clock on our girls yet, so Thursday (at the season-opening Cougar Invitational in Manson) will tell us a lot about where we're at. I think the bump up to 2A might actually benefit our girls compared to the 1A district we were in last year, which wasn't only good but as deep as I've ever seen."
In addition to his Gaels, Szalat views two-time defending league champion Webster City and Humboldt as the NCC boys favorites. Three-time reigning league title-holder Humboldt, Algona and Bishop Garrigan appear to be the top girls contenders.
"I don't emphasize conference as much as district and state, but that might be something we start focusing on a little more," Szalat said.
Assisting Szalat will be Deb Larsen and Kristin Brodie.