PHS cross country teams hope large senior group brings strong leadership

by Mark Cheffey

The PHS boys and girls cross country teams have 25 athletes out this year including 10 hoping to lead Palmyra to new success.

“Goals, as every year, are to try and get better each day with our training and our level of competitiveness,” said Coach Nicholas Koetters. “If we do that then we plan on competing at a high level when it comes time for conference and districts at the end of the season.” 

Koetters is excited to have the group of seniors who include girls Lauren Reid, Emily Jeffries, Emily Malone, Grace Krigbaum, Bella Perkins, Keri Schindler, Lydia Szarka and Emma Watkins and boys, Christian Drebes and Casey Hathaway. 

“They have taken a strong leadership role this summer leading workouts and getting things organized when we weren’t able to or when we were limited,” Koetters said.  “Reid and Szarka are past state qualifiers, so the younger kids look to them as an example of what to do to get to a high level.“

Having a large number out also makes for keener efforts to earn spots.

“It makes for good competition which hopefully makes the kids compete against each other a little harder during practice and makes them want to work harder in meets to earn that spot on varsity,” Koetters said.

New faces are also adding to the excitement.  

“On the girl’s side, freshman Laurin Sheputis had a lot of success at the middle school level, and we think she should be able to slide in to our top three and help lower our team score this season,” Koetters said.   “On the boys’ side we pick up a lot of new faces which is nice, because we lost all but one of the kids who competed at districts last season.”  

Caleb Juette, a junior, and Hathaway join the high school squad after doing cross country in middle school but not doing it in high school so far.  

“And, Connor Bross should step in to be a strong top three runner after moving into the school district, and we have four freshmen who we hope can take a couple of our varsity spots and help to build on our program for the future.”

Those freshmen are Talon Markley, Daniel Reid, Jacob Barnes and Kyle Jackson.

Also on the boys team is Dakota Snyder.

The rest of the girls include juniors, Sydney Bond and Lydia Gard, sophomores, Aly Noland and Tiffany Neff, and freshman, Chloe Hicks.

Cross country athletes will have to get used to some changes mandated for safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Our team wears masks when we meet to talk before and after practice, and the kids wear masks when they are not active,” Koetters said. “The craziest change for cross country is we’ve had to adjust our running style.  

“Normally runners like to pack run where you might have five or six bunched together, and they pace each other and push each other.  

“Well, we aren’t supposed to do that this year, so we’ve modified it and instead we are pack running but in straight lines and try to leave a few feet between one another.”

So far, during pre-season practice, Koetters said the runners are just putting in some miles and getting their legs under them. 

But, he said, they would soon start getting pacing down and working on race strategy.  

This year’s schedule is much the same as in the past including the Palmyra Invitational meet Sept. 12 in Flower City Park.

However, there will not be any of the Illinois meets.

Palmyra opens the season this Saturday at Mexico.