The De Soto High School cross country team and its coach are hopeful the 2021 season will be less tumultuous than 2020.
“This season will hopefully be much less tumultuous than last year for all teams across the state,” said Jake Reuter, who’s in his third year as head coach. “We lost two very key senior leaders from last season, but we have two seniors this year with Tanner Pedretti and Rob Hunter, who will keep our ship steered in the right direction. Our boys team has grown, with a great freshman class coming in.”
The coach has a theme for his athletes that is meant to inspire them to improve.
“Our theme for this year is ‘Kuliko Jana.’ It is Swahili for ‘More Than Yesterday.’ We want each student-athlete to focus on just being a little bit better the next day, and to continue that for the whole season. That includes being a better runner, student, family member, community member, etc. As for goals, we always want every kid to improve throughout the season, and to realize the potential they have to be great. As a coach, you always want to win a conference championship, and we will see how close we can get to the throne. Before that can be done, we just want to continue to grow as a program, and to create better overall individuals.”
The Pirates lost two key runners to graduation — Kenzy Kreuzer and Vin Buchner. Kreuzer was a three-year team member and was last season’s Team Student-Athlete of the Year award winner and was 21st at conference. Buchner was a two-year team member, last season’s Team Captain award winner and was 26th at conference.
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Top returning athletes for the season include Tanner Pedretti, who was 27th at conference, Zack Yaktin, who was 19th at conference, and Cadence Thompson, who was 25th at conference. Reuter said newcomers to watch for are Seth Greeno, Jonathan Montes-Johnson, Kaden Knutson and Silas Buchner.
Reuter said there are great strengths among both the boys and girls.
“We have a great freshman boys class, with four newcomers coming into the program. These kids are ready to start building a legacy, as they demonstrated with their commitment to summer running. Tanner Pedretti is the type of leader that every coach wants, and he will lead with both his words and his actions. We have solid returners in Zack Yaktin, Rob Hunter, and Ben Gray. We look forward to taking the next step forward as a program this fall.”
“Girls: Cadence Thompson is a kid that has worked hard to improve. She will be able to show all of the other runners in our program that through determination, you can be very competitive. Hailey Yaktin comes is with experience of running for our middle school program last season.”
Where are the team’s weaknesses and biggest challenges?
“Boys: With four freshman coming in, they will just have to get used to what it takes to be a cross country runner. This weakness will soon fade away as they get some races under their belts.”
“Girls: As with past years, we are lacking numbers. We have just two girls on the team at this point, but we are hoping that we can gain another few runners once the school year starts. Our middle school program is growing, so hopefully in the future, this won’t be a concern.”
Who are the top contenders for the conference title and how does Reuter think the team will do this season?
“Boys: I see Kickapoo-La Farge as being the top team at this point, as they are the current conference champs, and bring in a few good freshmen. Wauzeka-Steuben has built a team with consistent success, and River Ridge should also have a good showing. We are hoping to mix it up with the top teams. We always want to win a Conference Title, but if we could finish in the top three, that’d be a great year for us.”
“Girls: Without having at least five girls for a full team, our first goal is to simply be able to post our a team score. Kickapoo-La Farge has to be the overwhelming favorite, as they finished third at the state meet last year, and only lost one runner from that squad. It was so much fun watching them represent the Ridge & Valley. The rest of the conference should also post some good teams.”
Last year, the boys were fifth at conference, and ninth at sub-sectionals. The girls were fourth at conference, and seventh at sub-sectionals.
The assistant coach is Rick Pedretti.