Kee cross country team returns a half dozen letterwinners; No girls participating this year

Left to right - Front row: Mikey Mitchell, Keegan Ahouse, Tom Brennan, Jesse Walleser, Ethan Whalen. Back row: Coach Gary Bottorff, Sam Hisel, Spencer Colsch, Michael Harris, Nolan Welsh. Photo courtesy of Kee Yearbook.

The 2014 Kee cross country season looks to be completely one-sided this fall, as no girls have reported for early-season practice thus far for the Hawks. Veteran coach Gary Bottorff has also seen a bit of a drop in overall numbers on the boys’ side of the team equation this season, as just nine competitors have been putting in early-season work-outs for the Kee boys.
Of those nine, six return with varsity letterwinning experience for Coach Bottorff, and five of this season’s team members are seniors. Four of those team members can boast that most veteran combination of being both a senior and a returning varsity letterwinner, that quartet including Sam Hisel, Michael Harris, Nolan Welsh and Tom Brennan. The sophomore pair of Evan Whalen and Spencer Colsch round out this year’s list of seasoned returnees, having earned their first varsity stripes last season as freshmen.
“They bring their experience and knowledge of cross country,” Coach Bottorff said of his veteran returnees. That veteran nucleus will be joined by senior Keegan Ahouse and the sophomore tandem of Mikey Mitchell and Jesse Walleser in an effort to overcome what has continued to be the team’s overall greatest obstacle, “once again, lack of numbers,” according to Bottorff.
In addition to low participation numbers, this year’s squad will also have to overcome the loss of a four-year varsity letterwinner with the graduation of front-end runner Matt Manning this past May. But Coach Bottorff already sees some desirable qualities emerging in his team’s early-season work-outs.
Bottorff notes a willingness to work hard to improve from last year, team work and a desire to compete as early-season strengths he has already witnessed from his small but eager group as the season gets underway. “The team, as a whole, has been working hard getting ready for the start of the season,” he said.
Goals for this year’s charges range from the very simple of “having fun,” to the ultimate goal of qualifying for the State Meet. Coach Bottorff also wants to see this season’s team improve on Kee’s ninth-place and 18th-place finishes from last season’s Upper Iowa Conference and Class 1A District Meets, respectively, and also hopes to have everyone continuously improve on their own personal best times.
The veteran coach realizes that attainment of those goals depends on a handful of key factors. “How much they improve from last year, and whether they will give that extra effort to be better than last year,” he shared as those keys. “How quick the new members learn to run with the experienced members of the team. How fast they develop depends on how much effort they want to put into the sport.”
Coach Bottorff continues to see Central Elkader and South  Winneshiek as the top teams in the Upper Iowa Conference again this season. The Hawks were scheduled to get a chance to experience a bit of that conference competition at the Tuesday, August 26 Edgewood-Colesburg Invitational before next preparing for the MFL/MarMac Invitational at Luana Thursday, September 4.