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New coach leads almost new EHS harriers in 2013

Ellsworth's Michael Bergman makes his way through the Kinnickinnic River in the River Falls X-Treme Invitational.1 / 2
Ellsworth cross country runner Kelsey Betthauser is one of four returning letter winners on the EHS girls' team.2 / 2

Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 has turned into a beautiful day and the weather has Ellsworth High School's new cross country head coach Marcie Jahnke excited to watch her team run at the New Richmond Invitational this afternoon.

"We finally get a break weather-wise," Jahnke said. "That first meet at River Falls was more about getting through considering the heat and the difficult course.  Now we have a beautiful day to run and I'm excited to see the team in action, especially against the other teams in the conference and against Spring Valley as well. "

Jahnke comes to Ellsworth as an assistant from Wisconsin Rapids Assumption and inherits a program which almost as new as she is as head coach. The Panthers lost a lot to graduation. The nearly entire boys' squad which finished second in the Middle Border Conference meet and eighth in the sectionals last season, including All-MBC runners Lucas Green, Tyler Marson and Caleb Gustafson along All-MBC honorable mention runner James Jean and Mason Engnes. Richie Powers also is gone following his father, former EHS head coach Rich Powers, to Medford, Minn. Only sophomore Carter Schultz ran in the MBC varsity meet last fall.  

Unfortunately what EHS lost they had a hard time replacing. The Panthers barely have enough runners to have a scoring team. Other members include junior Michael Bergman or freshmen Riordan Holt, Logan Hubbard along with Jonah Haugley.  Not all of them will run varsity at New Richmond.

"Carter is looking really strong. He prepared well and really being a leader which is needed for a younger team," Jahnke said. "We have put our runners at the level they're at right now where they'll be competitive."

Jahnke said the Panther girls' team can be competitive and more this season. While the Panthers have just at seven runners, the EHS girls return four letter winners in juniors Kelsey Betthauser and Payton Bjorkman and sophmores Kimberly Hudson and Kayla VanWatermeulen. Ellsworth lost three seniors from last year's team, All-MBC runner Kennedy Kowalchyk, honorable mention Rebecca Matzek and Cassie Lofgren which placed fifth in the MBC meet and sixth at sectionals.   

"One thing the River Falls showed was how mentally tough they are," Jahnke said. "They're running good as a pack with two good juniors and good talent coming up. They work hard and they're very determined runners."

New runners for the Panthers this fall are freshmen Maggie Engnes, Christina Kowalchyk and Kasey Mitchell. 

While Jahnke hopes the girls' team can do well the season she's already looking two to three moves ahead.

"Obviously we have a lot of room to grow to produce a program which is consistently competitive," Jahnke said.  "We have to convince students to come out for the sport, especially track runners, train over the summer so they're ready to run in the fall. Hopefully over time we can build something with a tradition that kids want to be a part of."

Next Tuesday Ellsworth will compete in the Rice Lake Invitational while Prescott, Spring Valley and Elmwood/Plum City will compete at the Prescott Invitational starting a 4:30 p.m. Here is the first state cross country poll: