The Marysville High School boys cross country team is pictured from left, front row, Zach Paliga, Riley Karnes and Donovin Nativdad; second row, Tyler Heap, Lane Coil, Dylan Garber, Jack Flanagan, Max Daughterty, James Heap, Justyn Bernard, Drew Haughn, Braylon Manz and Preston Herring; third row, Aiden Gome, Landen Russell, Cannon Moser, Daniel Kruse, Chris Valentin, Zach Galvis, Quinton Bodine, Tyler Calvert, Carter Stowell and Emerson Trapp; back row, coach Heather Plumb, coach Luci Howard, Blake Murgatroyd, Aaron Schlemmer, Austin Bentz, Daniel Kastner, Caleb Rice, Brian Boston, Trevor Marlett and head coach Luke Sundermeier. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
Members of Marysville High School’s girls cross country team are from left, front row, Katie Krueger, Rachael Hanbman and Kaitlyn Evans; second row, Sylvia Eley, Riley Sherick, Alyssa Rodman, Kaylee Morton, Maggie Zweizig, Kiersten Chambers, Katie Nichols and Haylee Huffman; third row, Alex Schlemmer, Ava Elliott, Katheryn Mager, Emily Krueger, Paige Krueger, Olivia Elliott, Ashley Boston, Camryn Macket, Aleyna Msith and Maddie Burgdorf; back row, coach Heather Plumb, coach Luci Howard, Lexi Walk, Madison Higginbotham, Meghan McKinney, Grace Golla, Breanna Bailey, Abbey Williams, Lizzy Cline, Bryn Hothem, Emerson Bautsch and head coach Luke Sundermeier. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
During this unprecedented time of uncertainty, the Marysville High School cross-country team has turned to the familiarity of lacing up its shoes and getting out the door for training runs as a welcome reprieve.
Last spring, the canceled track and field season didn’t stop most of the MHS distance runners from competing virtually and continuing to develop their fitness for the year.
The cross-country team began meeting in small groups this summer for phase one of the school’s COVID-19 reopening plan.
The Monarchs later began their traditional summer training block with the necessary restrictions such as social distancing, masks and symptom checks.
Despite the virus conditions, the team logged 6,500 miles of training between June 1 and Aug. 1.
“Our goal throughout the summer was to teach this generally young and inexperienced team how to train and prepare for the rigors of the upcoming season,” said MHS head coach Luke Sundermeier.
After graduating a strong class of seniors (including state qualifiers Tristan Karnes-University of Dayton and Jacquelyn Witt-Northern Kentucky University), the team looked forward to developing a new crop of runners.
The boys, though, return several key contributors from last year’s varsity pack.
They include Riley Karnes, Brian Boston, Jack Flanagan and James Heap.
“All of them continue to raise the bar with their collective efforts every day,” said Sundermeier. “There will be many battles all season to make the varsity lineup, so motivation will be sky-high.”
The girls return two of the top three runners from last year’s regional-qualifying team, including
individual state qualifier Bryn Hothem and three-time All-District runner Katie Krueger.
A strong group of freshmen girls will be key contributors in the varsity pack, according to Sundermeier.
“There are more than a dozen new runners on the girls team, so we are looking forward to seeing who is ready to contribute in the postseason.”
The collective focus has been and continues to be consistent training.
With plans and protocols constantly changing, athletes are learning to adapt and keep the long-view of their development in mind.
The team is committed to the training program and ready to embrace the hard work which lies ahead, said the coach.
“Upperclassmen are teaching underclassmen the discipline required of a successful distance runner and the importance of having fun and enjoying the process of improvement,” said Sundermeier.
The Monarchs will compete in the realigned Cardinal Division of the Ohio Capital Conference.
The division includes strong programs such as Dublin Jerome and Thomas Worthington.
“Our athletes are excited by the possibility of testing themselves against the best and will work for a high finish at the OCC meet in October,” said Sundermeier. “Individually, we hope to have several boys and girls in the top seven places to receive first-team OCC honors.”
Sundermeier said there is a good deal of learning every day, since two-thirds of the team members are new to high school cross-country.
“Athletes are learning how to train and listen to their bodies as they prepare for goals that are months away,” he said. “The shared experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has forged a bond that motivates them to get out the door and train.
“It will be an exciting season with a newfound value in any chance we have to compete.”
“Every single athlete on our roster wants to improve,” said the coach. “Everyone is committed to building
momentum throughout the season and reaching their potential.
“Our emphasis will be on the postseason meets in October and November,” he said. “Both the boys and girls will focus on keeping a strong pack during races.”