With four runners back from a team that just missed qualifying for the state meet a year ago, first-year coach Trish Otto has reason to be optimistic about the upcoming high school girls cross country season.
Otto, who ran cross country at Holgate High School and Kent State University, takes over the program this season.
“I’ve always loved cross country,” said Otto. “It’s a passion of mine.”
The Lady Cats have just one senior on the roster in Macee Dilbone, who is also their top returning runner. Dilbone just missed qualifying as an individual for the state meet last season.
“It’s really important to have a senior leader, on and off the course, especially this year,” said Otto. “I feel we need to work on our team unity and Macee will be a good leader for us.”
Also returning from last year’s team that placed fifth at the regional tournament are sophomore Maddie Lloyd and juniors Caely Ressler and Ally Bohls. Otto pointed to freshmen Emily Birkhold and Macee Ripke as potential varsity runners.
“The strength we have is we have a lot of girls running in a pack,” said Otto. “Macee (Dilbone) and Maddie (Lloyd) are running up front and then we have three or four girls running in pack behind them. A lot of those girls put in a lot of miles over the summer.”
Rounding out the roster are Cameron Lavin, Jayda Clark, Paige Weaver, Reagan Burkey, Hayleigh Creps and Sarah French.
The Lady Cats do not have a home meet scheduled this season.
“I really don’t think that will be a challenge,” said Otto. “Most of our meets are not that far from us and our home course is one of the most challenging there is.”
As a new coach, Otto said she hasn’t spent a lot of time looking at the competition in the Northern Lakes League.
“So far I have been focusing on our team and getting to know our girls and their strengths,” said the Napoleon coach. “I want to get them to be the best they can be.”