Panthers have small team to compete with in 2014
Pieces of eight.
That’s all that there for the Ellsworth High School cross country team compete with so far as the 2014 season begins this week.
EHS has barely enough for a girls team (six) and just two for the boys.
Second-year head coach Marcie Jahnke hopes to recruit more athletes to come out for the sport as school gets underway next week but she knows building a long-term program is a lengthier process.
“I teach freshmen students so I hope to be able to convince a few to give the sport a try,” Jahnke said. “But our target market is the middle school. We have 80 kids in our program (at EMS) and we have to carry them along into the high school program. We can’t compete with the New Richmonds of our conference without more athletes. We have to let students know that while cross country is a tough sport, the sense of accomplishment you feel when you complete a race or have a good finish or set a personal best is enormous and fun.“
Or get to the state meet, which is what Jahnke is hoping a couple of Panther runners are able to do this fall. Carter Schutz, a junior and returning lettermen, finished eighth in the Middle Border Conference meet a year ago and made second-team all-conference.
“He physically stronger than a year ago, he’s running well in practice and has nice control of his pace and look,” Jahnke said.
The only other boys’ runner is sophomore lettermen Rory Holt, who ran with the team last season.
Another potential state meet runner is on the girls’ team. Returning letter winner Kelsey Betthauser was honorable mention All-MBC as a junior. Jahnke says Betthauser will make sure to have enough energy to perform her best when late October arrives.
“Kelsey is a great athlete and leader and really, the glue for our team this year,” Jahnke said. “She knows what she needs to do to make it to state and primary it is to stay healthy. She’s not to go out too fast or do too much too early. She’s going to run at her strongest when it comes time to do so.”
The Panther girls’ team also returns letter winners such as seniors Payton Bjorkman and Kasey Mitchell and sophomore Maggie Engnes. They’ll be joined by freshmen Rachel Mancuso and Julia VanWatermeulen.
“I’m curious to see what the girls’ team can do, especially at the sectional level,” Jahnke said. “If we stay healthy enough to score as a team (which requires five runners) we could be very competitive. They’re running in a tight pack in practice, the freshmen have looked really good so far and so are our returning runners like Payton, Kasey and Maggie.”
Even just having one runner compete at state would be a big boost for the program according to Jahnke.
“It provides everyone outside the team and in the community at look what you can accomplish when reaching a goal,” Jahnke said. “It makes a big difference because it provides a meaning to what preach to kids in practice. Even though we’re small in numbers its’ been a great group to coach and with good attitudes and a winning mentality, hopefully we can reach those goals so our program can benefit.”