BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Runners ran through the woods at Clintonwood Park last Thursday as they prepared for their first dual meet set for this Friday against Rochester Adams.
“They are looking forward to racing somebody,” said Clarkston Boys Cross Country Coach Larry Adams. “We have Adams right off the bat. We will find out right away where we are because they are pretty good. They came out at the end last year. They are probably a little bit stronger. It will be a good challenge on a good cross country course.”
Kevin Breen, coach for the girls cross country team, added the Highlanders beat the the girls team last year in the league championship by a few points.
“They are returning a lot of their runners,” he said.
The Wolves bring back strong returners from last season’s teams.
The boys team has three from the top seven varsity runners coming back. With juniors Andrew Sesti and Joey Taverna holding the top two spots right now. Senior Owen Kolean is number three as of now.
“Andrew is running really well and Joey is slanted at number two,” Adams said. “Owen has been on the state team twice – he has the experience. He had some injuries in the last year. We are looking to bounce back this year with him.”
He added senior Bo Anderson is stepping into being one of the top seven runners for the varsity team.
“We are rebuilding,” Adams said. “The rest are a bunch of unknown entities right now. We have young kids and some kids who have been JV level and really working hard. It’s really a mixture. We will know more about ourselves in three weeks than we do today. We are getting there. It is definitely going to be a work in progress more so than it has in the past.”
Breen added the girls team looks good and some of the runners have stepped up and got their mile training in during the summer. “The team is looking really fit and ready to run,” he said.
Some of the returners include seniors Maya Bergman, Mattie Drennan and Shannon Billette and junior Mackenzie Montigano.
“Maya is really going to have a big season this year,” Breen noted. “Mattie is doing a great job being a team leader and helping some of the freshmen move forward. Same thing with Maya, helping out. Maya has been a captain for at least two years now. She is really stepping into her shoes very well. Mackenzie, her mileage is good, and she is really challenging herself in practices.”
He added this year they have more than ten freshmen who joined the team.
“It seems our depth is deep through 14-16 runners I could put two moderately good varsity teams together,” Breen said. “It’s just going to be who puts the time in, who puts the work in.”
Some of the freshmen standouts right now are Alex Brigham, Morgan Poploskie, Anna Reinick and Kennedy Marches.
“Alex is already running with our top runners on the team. She is showing what she can do,” Breen said. “Morgan’s brother is a runner on the varsity team. Morgan is looking like she has the same capability to do the same thing on the girls team. Anna struggled with an accident earlier this summer. She’s coming back strong and she has put time in the off season to get herself ready. I could go on and on about our freshmen class. We have some surprises from some kids who have run in the past.”
He added it’s exciting as a coach but also tough.
“Any given day the varsity team could look completely different just because of how many kids we have,” Breen said.
The format for competitions will be different this year with less runners allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wolves will be competing against OAA Red league teams in dual meets rather than jamborees.
“It’s going to be better for the young guys just for the fact of not being overwhelmed by the level of competition they are going to be in,” said Adams. “No Jackson Invite. No Holly Invite. Nothing that big of size. They will be able to learn better and learn how to race and things like that. It’s more hands on coaching during them. The challenge of this is their third guy, this is who you should run with.”
Breen added the strategy will be different going into each dual meet.
“We might have meets where we have a specific plan going into it where all my kids just run together and not necessarily for their best time,” he said. “Other times we will be trying to match up, runner for runner with the team we are racing and other times it might be just get out there and see what you can do. Sometimes the head to head matches you don’t have running partners, people to run with and push your runners along.”
The Wolves head to Bloomer Park this Friday to race against the Highlanders. They host Troy at Clintonwood Park on Sept. 18.