By JAMIE BAKER
There’s no talk of building or rebuilding at Findlay High School regarding this year’s girls cross country team.
The talk is all about winning.
With five of the team’s top seven runners back, veteran Findlay High School cross country coach Mark Gleason thinks this year’s group can win the school’s first TRAC cross country championship.
“We have a really good group and if everything comes together we really think we can win the conference. The way Amanda Tremains came on in the last year and a half, we think she’s going to be one of the top runners in the TRAC,” said Gleason, now in his 28th year of coaching.
“We have two sophomores that are really good and I think they can make a push into the top 10 or even top seven at the league meet. We aren’t real deep, but we have some terrific runners and we’re looking forward to a really fun year.”
Gleason has 25 runners to work with this season on the girls team, which is down a handful or so from previous seasons.
The Trojans did lose a handful of seniors, but only two, Claire Short and Katie Corbin, were consistently among the top seven for FHS. Short, who will run this fall collegiately at NCAA Division I Colgate, was a four-time all-TRAC honoree while Corbin was a three-time all-league runner.
Tremains stepped up and became the Trojans’ No. 1 runner at the midpoint of the season. She finished the season by netting a spot on the first team all-conference squad by finishing sixth individually in the TRAC meet, while leading FHS to a third-place team finish for the second straight season.
The following week, Tremains was 13th individually to qualify for the Division I regional as an individual. The Trojans ended up sixth as a team one spot away from advancing as a team.
“At some point last year, I think Amanda just decided she was going to be determined to be a good runner,” Gleason said. “We tell the kids all the time that there’s no short-cut in running. The more you run, the better you’re going to get. It’s all about the time you put into it. She really took that to heart and it’s gone from there.”
Sophomores Karlee Dittman and Alli Ernst are looking to build off successful freshmen seasons.
Dittman and Ernst ended the season as Findlay’s No. 2 and No. 3 runners finishing 12rh and 14th in the TRAC last season, earning spots on the all-TRAC second team.
Many times the biggest improvement a prep athlete makes is between their freshman and sophomore years. Gleason is hoping that’s going to be the case with his strong sophomore class of runners.
“That’s what I am hoping, that Alli and Karlie can make a jump this year from their freshman to sophomore year. We are pretty confident in Amanda and what Ernst and Dittman can do. A lot of our success will be based on how our 4-5-6 runners compete.”
How well seniors Megan Casata and Franki Bejarano compete could very well be the key to the team’s success in the league and postseason.
Casata was the Trojans No. 4 runner a year ago and ended up on the all-TRAC honorable mention list when she finished 20th. Bejarano, who transferred to Findlay from Hardin Northern at the beginning of last year, was 22nd in the conference meet, just a spot away from all-league honors.
“Franki coming in, that’s helped solidify our lineup,” Gleason said. “She was an unknown last year and as the season went on she really began to believe in herself and that confidence really went a long way.”
“She kept improving as the year went on and we’re excited to see how much further she can go this year.”
A couple of other runners to keep an eye on this year are freshman Alyssa Casata and sophomore Annie Traver.
With five returning runners, five of whom finished in the top 22 in the league, Gleason has high expectations for this year’s group.
“Winning the league is our expectation. We also want to get to the regional and hopefully have a couple of girls in position to get to state this season,” Gleason said. “There’s no reason why our girls can’t accomplish all of those goals.”
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