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William Nitz is one of five returning lettermen on the Prescott boys' team. Herald file photo by Dave Newman.

Growing program fuels Prescott cross country's optimism for upcoming season

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PRESCOTT - Steve Peterson cites a lot different numbers when comes to his enthusiasm over the Prescott High School cross country program.

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Peterson, in the second of his second term as head of the PHS program, cited one figure in particular:

"We have 21 new runners in our program this fall," Peterson said. "That's more than whole teams we had in the past."

Combine these newcomers (at least 10 of them freshmen between both squads) with a good amount of returning letter winners on both the boys' and girls' teams, then the numbers game (there's 35 runners on this year's PHS squad) is finally starting to favor the Cardinals.

"We're still pretty young, we don't have a lot of seniors on either team," Peterson said. "But we have more depth than we've every had and the newcomers have been welcomed and accpeted, which really enhances the team concepts that I believe is crucial to cross country success."

More numbers leads to more optimism and such optimism has the Prescott program thinking the girls' team has a shot of winning the Middle Border Conference title, if not go to state from the new sectional they are in (which are schools located to their north).

Prescott brings back four starters form last years MBC meet where they had their highest finish in program history in second. Senior Amanda Murphy leads the way. The state-qualifying runner finished third in last year's conference meet. Joining her on the All-MBC team was junior Annika Carlson and senior Emmie Carpenter. Sophomore letter winner Alysse Lewis received honorable mention. PHS lost three senior varsity runners in Ellie Boles, Anna Jogefalk and Maddie Brunner.

"We want to challenge for the title," Peterson said. "We know it's going to be tight and we have to be able to find three runners to strengthen our line-up and finally we have the depth to do so. Amanda is going to lead the way. Last year she's developed the confidence to go with her ability and we're looking forward to seeing her start off meeets in the top 10 and setting a strong pace for us to follow. She worked very hard over the summer and she's in great shape."

Prescott's boys finished sixth last fall and getting the club into the top half of the conference is an optimistic and realistic goal. PHS returns five lettermen from last fall including sophomore William Pena, junior William Nitz, junior Andrew Taylor, senior Caelen Miller and senior Jack Lassen, who is back from back injury which sidelined him for much of last season. Pat Ballosh was the only graduated senior starter

"The next step in our program is to increase the base in our runners," Peterson said. "Right now, only the top few of our runners have a strong base of running strength at the start of fall practice. But you want to get a whole varsity team, a whole JV team and lots of runners who run out-of-season and are ready to increase their miles and drop their times at start of practice rather than midway through the season. You want to be ahead of your competition by weeks. That what the championship programs are like. You start with good numbers and then you get the kids competing for spots and to that they have to put in the extra hours and the extra miles." 

Prescott began the season last Thursday at the UW-River Falls Xtreme Invitational. But that's more of a fun meet for the team to start the season. The competitive jucies will be flowing starting on Thursday at St. Croix Central Invitational in Hammond. 

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