Mark Abraham, the 2016 Class A Boys’ Coach of the Year in Minnesota, is heading into his 34th season of guiding the La Crescent Cross Country Program, while Assistant Coach Erik Chapman returns for his third year.
Led by All-State runners Matt Steiger and Zack Emery, who finished second and fourth in the State Meet, the Lancer boys placed third in the Class A field last fall and defended both their Three Rivers Conference and Section 1A titles. The girls showed marked improvement in 2016, placing fourth in conference and ninth at sectionals.
Varsity runners Morgan Dunlap and Taylor Haney were lost to graduation from last season’s girls team and depth will be an issue for the 2017 edition of Lancer girls’ cross country, as only six senior high girls are currently on the team.
Riley Von Arx will be the lone senior on the team, with juniors Molly Franzose and Elle Kreutzman, sophs Katy Steffes and Tatum Whitford and freshman Ashley Muenzenberger the only other senior high team members. Of those runners, four have sectional experience, with Steffes placing 53rd, Franzose 57th, Muenzenberger 87th, and Von Arx 102nd last season. Eighth grader Kennette Duffy moved up to varsity at the end of last year and was actually the top finisher for the Lancers in the Section 1A Meet, placing 47th.
Lydia Rosendahl and Julia Lechnir gained valuable experience as seventh-graders last year and will get varsity time in 2017 and will also join new eighth-grade runner Bridget Fuchsel and several seventh-graders at both the junior high and varsity and junior varsity levels.
Stewartville, Lake City, Lanesboro/Fillmore Central, and Dover-Eyota should be the top programs in Section 1A again this fall, with Lanesboro the favorite to defend their Three Rivers Conference Championship. The return of 2015 State Class A Individual Champ Grace Ping, now a freshman, from Utah to Winona Cotter and the addition of her seventh grade sister Lauren may put the Ramblers into the competitive mix this fall as well. Defending Section 1A champion Kayla Christopherson of Austin Pacelli will once again have to contend with Ping in the race for individual honors.
Following their third place state finish, the Lancer boys’ will have varsity spots to fill, with three-time all-stater and 2015 individual state champion Zack Emery, along with state team runners Andrew Lechnir and Cal McLellan all lost to graduation.
Two-time all-state runner Matt Steiger returns for his senior season after a second place individual finish at State last season and will joined by classmates Cole Fechner, a three-time state meet team participant and Andrew Jaquette, an alternate on last year’s state team. Dane McCormick is the only junior on the team, but has two state meets under his belt, and the depth of the team will have to come from the sophomore class. Camdan Nolop had an outstanding freshman season last year and was consistently a scoring runner for La Crescent, earning all-conference honors, as did state team alternates Thomas Lechnir and Bryce Duffy. Austin Embke and Jake Boudreau, also sophomores, will get plenty of varsity experience during the upcoming season. There are currently no freshmen boys on the team.
After running with an incomplete junior high team in 2016, an influx of seventh graders will join eighth-graders Carson Reider, Tyler Groth, and Cody Kowalski to give the younger Lancers a full complement of runners this fall.
The running website Minnesota Mile Split has the Lancer boys pegged as the third best returning team behind Perham and Mora, the teams that bested them at State last season. Plainview-Elgin-Millville and St. Charles will present the biggest obstacle in the Lancers bid to win their fourth consecutive Three Rivers title, while Rochester Area Association of Christian Home Education and Lake City will be factors in the quest for the two State qualifying berths in Section 1A. Wabasha-Kellogg’s Nick Meyer, RAACHE’s Josiah Eide and Caleb Jones and Blooming Prairie’s Alec Ille will be chasing Steiger for the Sectional individual crown.