GNADENHUTTEN --- Returning to head the Indian Valley High cross country programs for the 14th year, veteran coach Dave Norris welcomed a veteran-dominated group of girl runners and a relatively inexperienced group of boys. The largest number of girls ever, 16, reported for August workouts along with nine boys.
The Lady Brave program set a high bar last fall, finishing second in the Principals' Athletic Conference meet, fourth in the Division II District meet and 12th in the regional.
Only two members of that contingent graduated -- Courtney Emler and Emily Probert. Emler was an all-Eastern District and honorable mention all-PAC selection for her efforts.
Heading the cast of veteran competitors returning to the fold are seniors Emily Baker and Paige Saho. Each has three years of experience and will be joined by fellow senior Heidi Miller, a one-year letterwinner.
Other returning letterwinners are juniors Lauren Long and Leaha Granato along with sophomore Tawney Ault.
"We think we have a nice group returning along with some promising newcomers," Norris offered. "We think we can be competitive for the PAC title and have another strong post-season run. We have good potential depth and great senior leadership."
The remainder of the 2013 Lady Braves' roster includes senior Katie Clum; juniors Lauren Long and Alicia Jenkins; sophs Allison Kenney and Maddie Miles, and freshmen Shannon Regula, Celina Mayforth, Alexis Pasquinelli, Hope Jackson, Kim Nichols and Allie Sugalski.
With just nine participants, the Indian Valley boys' are going to have to get good times from young runners in order to be competitive.
Departed from the fold due to graduation are regional qualifier Nolan Rennicker along with Austin Menafee and Doug Fritz. Last year's squad finished fourth in the PAC and sixth in the D-II District.
Regional qualifier Bailey McBeth is one of two seniors returning to to lead the Braves along with Evan Menafee. Each has a wealth of varsity experience.
Past the pair of veteran seniors, the Braves will have to look to younger runners to fill the void created by departed grads.
Sophs Mitchell Giffen and Collin Border will battle freshmen Trevor Ault, Nic Moore, Brandon Leggett, Mitchell Troyer and Clay Riddle for designation as varsity runners.
"The key factor," Norris explained, "will be how our new kids adjust to the longer race distance at the high school level. That's just as true for our freshman girls as well as the boys. We're young, but If we get three or four of younger boys to progress well, we could surprise some people."
Norris' staff for both squads will include high school assistant Doug Krocker and junior high boys/girls coach Jim Krocker.