By CAREY FOX
Early in the 2006 cross country season it has become apparent that both Northview and Clay City have done plenty of work to improve over the offseason.
For the Clay City boys team, four of their top five runners return following a trip to semistate last year.
Logan Bettenbrock, Adam Schroer, Tyler Moon and Kevin Cook all placed in the top-22 at the sectional level last season and bring veteran experience to the team this year.
Thus far, in the early season, the Eels have added Braxton Griffith and Ben Dickey to their depth along with Parker Modesitt and Austin Vansickle who were all in the top-20 during Saturday's Riverton Parke Invitational.
Once more the team has their sights set on a return to the semistate and hopefully one step deeper into the postseason for a trip to the IHSAA State Finals.
The Northview girls cross country team had a bit of a down year last year, but with an infusion of youth, the team has begun to raise some eyebrows in the area.
The Knights return their top three sectional runners from last season in senior Hannah Hunter and sophomores Allie True and Cassandra Barnett. Add to the mix former soccer player, sophomore Kylee Thacker, and freshmen Emily Phillips, Corey Laue and Krystle Miller and the Knights have a bevy of talent to work with.
"We're looking pretty good for a young team," commented first year girls coach Chris Walker. "They've logged a lot of miles over the summer time and have been working hard."
That offseason work ethic has been readily apparent in the first couple of meets for the Knights who have gathered wins against Riverton Parke in a dual meet and both Owen Valley, Shakamak and Brown County last week in a four-way meet.
"Our girls have made some huge improvements from last season," mentioned Walker. "We're a lot stronger. We're looking pretty good right now, but we'll be able to tell more as the season goes on."
Thacker has earned wins in the first couple of meets for the Knights, the second victory was just two seconds off the school record at Craig Park.
Phillips was just five seconds behind Thacker in the race and the Knights got a good grouping from their three through six runners as Hannah Hunter placed sixth overall in 17:42 and Allie True was ninth overall in 18:17.
With just one senior on the team in Hunter, the Knights have only one junior as well in Jennifer Jeffers. So the future is extremely bright for a team that hopes to continue improving throughout the season in search for a strong postseason.
The Northview boys are also a young squad that includes just two seniors out of a 11 man team.
"I think we have to have someone who can replace (graduated No. 1 runner) James (Grounds)," said boys coach Jeff Gambill. "We've been averaging around 50 miles a week. We've seen some pretty good improvement in workouts."
Hunter Reberger and Drew White are both seniors on this team and were in the top-12 overall in the four-way meet last week. However, junior Landry Moore and sophomore Chris Smith have been their frontrunners so far, taking third and fourth in last week's meet.
Junior Ryan Lutes was a fifth place finisher after placing 31st in the sectional. Eli Kirby is another sophomore on the team and he is the top returning sectional finisher after taking 23rd overall. Smith was a 26th place finisher for the Knights at the LaVern Gibson Course.
Also returning for the Knights are sophomore E.C. Moody and juniors Jordan and Griffin Maurer while newcomers Kolby Henke and Connor Strain add even more depth to the Northview team.
The Knights are certainly looking to reverse their fortunes as a team last year when they were fourth and were on the outside looking in at the top-three who advanced to regionals.
Clay City's girls team is also returning some experience on the course as Andrea Ladd and Rachael Narlock return after placing 19th and 26th in the sectional last year. However, Kayla Withrow has already shown a knack for the sport, taking the first team spot at Riverton Parke, 10th overall.
Kayla Baumgartner and Whitney Ames round out a team that is young, but should improve as the season progresses.
The Eels travel to the Edgewood Invitational today while Northview visits North Central.