Waukon boys cross country team looks forward to return of all members from last year’s State-qualifying squad

Left to right - Front row: Sean Liddiard, Nate Helgerson, Miles Hansmeier, Andrew Mellick, Austin Day. Back row: Will Keenan, Tyler O’Neill, Carter Fuhrman, Noah Liddiard, Tanner Manning, Isaac Fink. Not pictured: Brock Berns, Kameron Klinge, T.J. Treptau, Hunter Jensen.

The past 10 months could not pass by quickly enough for the Waukon boys cross country team, as all eight of last season’s top runners return from the Indians’ State-qualifying team that placed 14th among Class 2A’s elite teams last fall. That first State Meet qualification for the Tribe in more than a half decade produced by a collection of juniors and sophomores who are eligible to return this season has caught the anticipative eye of others as well, resulting in as high as a top-five ranking for the Tribe among Class 2A teams to begin this 2015 campaign.
Those veteran returnees include a group of five seniors, Brock Berns, Isaac Fink, Kameron Klinge, Tanner Manning and T.J. Treptau, and the junior trio of Austin Day, Hunter Jensen and Tyler O’Neill. That crew makes up just over half of this season’s total of 15 competitors for the Indians.
“We return our top eight runners from last year’s team that ran at State,” Waukon boys cross country coach Tara Stein said. “These eight runners have gotten a lot of varsity running experience early on in their cross country running careers.”
Even though this season’s squad features the return of State Meet experience and a strong pack running effort that helped get the Indians to that season grand finale last fall, that fact does not necessarily guarantee similar success in following seasons. A continued focus on improvement and the leg work on the course to make it happen have to be coupled with some good fortune in order to make goals achievable.
“Staying healthy will be key,” Coach Stein reasoned. “Another key will be the ability of our pack to continue to run strong and move up. Obviously, we want to see improvement in times from not only last year, but from meet to meet. We want to be more competitive as a team - last year we had frequent team finishes in the top three. Ultimately, we look to peak at the big three meets at the end of the season: Conference, District and State, and we want to qualify for and make a return trip to the State Meet in Fort Dodge.”
Providing the greatest challenges, and thus a motivation for further improvement, throughout this season will be competition against what Coach Stein sees as this season’s front-running teams in the Northeast Iowa Conference. “I see Charles City and Decorah as being the teams that the rest of the conference will be chasing,” she said.
That season of competition will get underway Tuesday, September 1 for the Indians at the Oelwein Invitational. The Tribe will then face a series of three meets within a seven-day span the following week, including at Waverly Tuesday, September 8, at North Fayette Valley Saturday, September 12 and at Starmont Tuesday, September 15.