By JAMIE BAKER
There’s good news and bad news for Findlay High School’s boys cross country team.
The bad news is that the Trojans recorded their lowest finish ever in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference meet, when FHS ended up fifth in the team standings a year ago.
The good news, though, is that all seven of the team’s top runners are back a year stronger, faster and more experienced.
“Everyone is back and we have a young group coming in from St. Mike’s, so we’re really excited about the boys team this year,” said Findlay High School coach Mark Gleason, who is entering his 28th season as a coach.
“If you look at our league, it’s really top heavy. And outside of Greg (Konecny), we’re not going to lose any of our top six. I think we’re going to surprise some people this season, but we’re also going to be building for even bigger and better things in the future.
“We think things could line up for us to where we can have a three or four year run, pushing for a league title,” he added.
Konecny is one of two seniors on this year’s squad and he has taken on a leadership role that was missing for the team last year after standout Jordan Halliday graduated.
Konecny led the way in last year’s TRAC championship by finishing 13th and earning a spot on the all-TRAC second team.
“The leadership that Greg has shown has been incredible. They want to do all they can to improve upon where they ended up last season,” Gleason said.
“Last year, when we lost Jordan, we had a void. There wasn’t anyone who wanted to step up and take on that role. To have that vocal leader is very important. He’s helped bring them together. They meet at the reservoir three or four days a week and talk about what they want to do.”
Two other all-conference runners return in juniors Cole Sprague and Luke Reuille. Reuille and Sprague were 20th and 21st respectively in the TRAC to net spots on the league’s honorable mention list.
The league meet, though, was an anomaly for Sprague.
He was the team’s top runner all season and finished 10th in the district meet a week after the TRAC to qualify for the Division I regional meet in Tiffin.
Sprague has shown he has the talent to compete with the best runners in the region. Gleason is hoping he puts it all together to help spearhead a successful season for the entire team.
“It’s all about putting in the miles, doing the work and believing in himself. He’s got all the talent in the world, he just has to put it together,” Gleason said. “He had a really good district race and I think when you run in the regional for the first time, it takes some getting used to. He runs as hard as he can to stay up there with who he wants to race with. He’s that close.”
Carl Rupp, the Trojans’ No. 7 runner a year ago also returns. Other top seven runners back include junior Adam Hellman and sophomores Ty Cordonnier and Benjamin Smith.
The Trojans will also be helped with an influx of runners to its 32-man roster from St. Michael, which won the Division III junior high state championship last fall.
Gleason anticipates at least one of those former Defenders, Preston Perkins, to crack the team’s top five this season.
The talent in the younger ranks has Gleason very excited about the program’s future.
“I think finishing in the top three at league is realistic and we want to get back to regionals as a team. We want to be in the mix for one of the top spots in the TRAC. If we finish any lower than third, honestly, I’ll be disappointed,” Gleason said.
“I know the kids have big goals, too. They want to finish in the top two in the league, and if they can do that, it means they are beating St. John’s and St. Francis and that’s no small accomplishment. Usually, in the past, we’ve been lucky to beat one of them in a year.”
Don’t count the Trojans out.
Findlay CC Schedule
Aug. 24 at Fremont Ross Norm Bray Invitational, 9 a.m.
Aug. 31 at Columbus Grove Invitational, 9 a.m.
Sept. 7 at Tiffin Carnival, 9 a.m.
Sept. 14 at Dave’s Running Invitational at Ottawa Park Golf Course, 10 a.m.
Sept. 21 at Van Buren Invitational, 9 a.m.
Sept. 28 at Oregon Clay Invitational, 9 a.m.
Oct. 5 at Marion Harding Invitational, 9 a.m.
Oct. 12 at TRAC Championship at Faurot Park, 9 a.m.
Oct. 19 at Division I district meet at Owens Community College
Oct. 26 at Division I regional meet at Tiffin Hedges-Boyer Park