Gaels eager to continue tradition
There is plenty of reason for excitement in the eyes of St. Edmond head cross country coach Mike Szalat this year.
Szalat, entering his 20th season leading the program, has an experienced group and depth — two keys to a successful season.
The Gael girls qualified for their fourth consecutive state meet last fall, placing eighth overall in Class 1A. Senior Abby Landwehr, along with sophomores Leah Johnson, Sydney Schulte, Kelli Kersten and Jacey Ash, all return from that unit.
Also, Jed Tracy is back after qualifying as an individual last year in his first season of cross country.
“Practice has been going well,” Szalat said. “We’ve got some new kids out and that’s exciting. Of the kids returning, many of them put in a lot of miles this summer, and in cross country there’s a saying of ‘summer miles bring fall smiles.'”
Landwehr, a standout track runner this past spring, will be looking to qualify for her fourth state meet later this year. She placed 32nd overall last year and had her “best summer by far,” according to Szalat.
“She set a school record for miles in a summer for a girl with 237,” Szalat said. “She has looked really, really good and you can tell she has put the work in. She’s been really smart about her running and has taken on a more vocal leadership role this year.”
St. Edmond is ranked eighth in 1A to start the season, with defending champion Hudson No. 1. Landwehr is 19th in the individual rankings.
Along with the returning runners, Szalat also added multi-sport standout Erin Flattery to the roster to go along with several key freshmen.
“Erin and Aubrey (Bemrich) have looked very good and that group of sophomores who ran at state have continued to progress,” he said. “Olivia Kolacia is back up there, and freshmen Aleksandria Aljets and Caroline Shelly have been running well.
“We’ll have some good competition for those varsity spots, which will also allow us to have depth as the season goes on.”
Tracy, a junior, placed 85th overall at state last year. Ryan Duckett is a returning varsity runner and Charlie Shelly joins the program after a successful track season.
“Jed leads by example,” Szalat said. “He’s a hard worker who was a starter on the basketball team, starter on the baseball team and had a job this summer, but still ran over 200 miles. That’s just a credit to him being able to take on such a heavy load.”
Freshmen Hayden Mayer and Drew Szalat also “put in a bulk of the running for us this summer” alongside Tracy and Shelly.
“We haven’t really had much depth for the boys the last couple of seasons, but we’ll have it this year,” Szalat said. “We haven’t qualified as a team for state for two years, which is the longest drought under my tenure. I know these guys don’t want to make it three.”
Landwehr, Jillian Cosgrove, Tracy and Shelly are captains for the teams this year. The Gaels open their season on Thursday when they run in Gowrie at the Southeast Webster Invitational.
The North Central Conference Invitational is scheduled for Oct. 9 in Hampton, with districts to take place Oct. 18. The state meet at Lakeside Golf Course goes down Oct. 27.
Szalat will once again by assisted by Monica Shelly, who he credits with “really helping to improve our conditioning and nutrition. She’s very knowledgeable in so many areas.”
2018 ST. EDMOND CROSS COUNTRY
Seniors — Chris Baker, Jackson Kochendorfer, Matthew Kornder, Nate Montgomery, Mitchell Rasmussen, Aaron Simpson.
Juniors — Connor Bocken, Cooper Fleming, Charlie Shelly, Jack Stackhouse, Jed Tracy.
Sophomores — Ryan Duckett, Grant Heldorfer, Anthony Lacina, Parker Oswald, Rick Xu.
Freshmen — Lucas Kornder, Isaac Larson, Joe Li, Zach Loerts, Hayden Mayer, Drew Szalat.
Seniors — Erin Flattery, Abby Landwehr, Jillian Cosgrove.
Juniors — Clare Condon, Claire Fleming, Olivia Kolacia.
Sophomores — Jacey Ash, Aubrey Bemrich, Leah Johnson, Kelli Kersten, Maggie Lennon, Sydney Schulte.
Freshmen — Aleksandria Aljets, Elly Berry, Gracie Harvey, Caroline Shelly.
Aug. 23 — at Southeast Valley Invitational, 5 p.m.; 28 — at Webster City Invitational, 5 p.m.
Sept. 8 — at CYO in Holstein, 9 a.m.; 17 — at Humboldt Invitational, 5 p.m.; 24 — at Algona Invitational, 5 p.m.
Oct. 4 — at Fort Dodge Invitational, 5 p.m.; 9 — at NCC Invitational in Hampton; 18 — at district meet.