By JAMIE BAKER
For Findlay High School’s girls cross country team, everyone’s back.
And they’re ready to get going.
“It’s really exciting, we have a really good team this year. We have good talent coming up as freshmen and good talent returning as well,” said senior Katie Corbin, one of several runners returning for the Trojans.
“We actually just came from a camping trip where we talked about those goals. We decided we’re going to go to regionals. But of course, we have to do well at the league and at regional first.”
Findlay High School head cross country coach Mark Gleason, who is heading into his 27th year at the school, is just as excited about the season as the girls are.
“Everyone’s back. It’s exciting. This is a team where we knew if they can put it all together, they can go far,” Gleason said.
“We’ve had some additions, too. With the new girls we have, it has everyone excited. It seems like the girls really bought into it and know this could be a special year. The seniors put in a lot of summer miles and it’s been fun to watch.”
All seven varsity runners that placed third in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference meet return.
Senior Claire Short, who earned second-team all-TRAC honors by finishing 11th in the conference, is the top returnee. Senior Madeline Woodhull and junior Amanda Tremains, who came on strong for the Trojans at the end of the track season last spring. Both were honorable mention all-TRAC selections.
The Trojans, though, had their hopes of a regional appearance dashed the following week with a seventh-place finish at districts.
Katie Corbin, who is back this season for her senior year, missed an individual regional meet bid by less than one second.
Seniors Analese Lutz and Maggie Yarcusko and junior Megan Cassata are the other returning runners for Findlay.
“For us it all starts with Claire Short and Katie Corbin, who are both three-time all league. Megan Cassata and Amanda Tremains are both right there too and Madeline Woodhull really finished out the season outstanding last year. I can’t say enough about Annalese Lutz who put in the miles too. That’s a pretty good group of girls that will be tough to beat,” Gleason said.
The Trojans’ veteran runners have put in a lot of extra work to prepare for what they hope will be a season to remember.
“A lot of us have gone to running camps this summer and learned about skills, form and pacing. We’ve also tried to spend a lot of time together to bond as a team too. We need to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to build each other up,” Corbin said.
Findlay’s girls will also get a boost with some new faces.
Freshman Allison Ernst and Paige Lammers, a sophomore who’s running cross country for the first time, will push for spots in Findlay’s top seven runners. Gleason also expects Karlee Dittman, who finished third in the TRAC junior high championships last year, will make a big impact on the program.
The Trojans had a solid pack last season with most of their runners finishing anywhere from 10th to 40th. But to take that next step, they’ll need one or two girls to consistently put together top-five or top-10 finishes in every meet.
Gleason thinks he has a few runners on the girls squad who are up to the task.
“Katie and Claire really put in the extra miles this year and I think both take that next step and can be a top-five type runner for us. They know what kind of runner Karlee is and the competition with the new girls is going to make everyone better,” Gleason said.
“With Tremains’ ending in the district track meet, that got her excited and probably pushed her to run much more during the summer. All of them are pushing themselves individually because they know the other girls are pushing themselves too.
“We have a really nice pack. We’re deep. Any of our top 12 girls could be in our top seven in any given meet,” he added.
During cross country camp the girls laid out their goals for the season. Among them are finishing in the top three in the conference and making it to regionals as a team.
Gleason thinks the bar may have been set too low for the FHS girls team this season.
“I think they are selling themselves short. I think the girls can push for the top three at regionals and the top two go to state,” he said. “It will be tough, but if everyone stays healthy and we peak at the right time there’s no reason why these girls can’t be in the top two at regionals.”