Class A Boys Preview: Tuscola Aims Toward Greatness

It was a sloppy but intense scene at last year's state championship

It will be an interesting cross country season on the 1A front as many of last year's top squads are back and loaded. Tuscola is the undisputed team to watch not just from a Class A perspective, but collectively. Moreover, expect to see a shift from top individual performance talk from the past to teams in the present. 


Head Coach/Coaches: Ryan Bruns
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 17th place
Key Returners: Isaac Teel (Sr.), Landen Boman (So.), Landen Carter (Jr.), Brendan Conway (Jr.), Christian Queen (So.), Brody Wilt (So.), Miles Doerflein (So.), Cale Schneider (So.)
Key Newcomers: Aiden Carter (Fr.), Zach Teel (Fr.), Jesse Winter (Fr.)
Outlook: The Panthers come off a successful season and will be looking to build off that performance at the state meet. They are once again led by Isaac Teel who was the second-place finisher at the state meet last year. He had a good track season but could not compete at the state meet due to injury.

Landen Boman looks to be this squad's second runner which was the same position he was in last year, He finished the state meet in 115th place and will look to majorly improve that effort this time. Brendan Conway was the squad's third runner last season, expect him to break 17:00. He will be looking to bounce back after an ok track season.

Landen Carter had a great track season as he broke 5:00 in the 1600m. He projects to be a sub-17:00 guy which will help massively. Aiden Carter is an incoming freshman who projects to make a major impact. He ran a sub 5:00 1600m in 8th grade, his progression throughout the season will be very key for this team. Coach Bruns stated "When you have 1 of the best runners in the state (Isaac Teel) you hope that he can have a great senior season, but also leave a legacy for years to come. Our underclassmen have really been following his lead. I just need to get out of his way."

9. Pleasant Plains

Head Coach/Coaches: Derek DeBarr

Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 25th place

Key Returners: Jack Willenborg (Sr.), Elijah Teefey (So.), Ryan Driskill (So.), Cole Payne (Jr.), Ethan Griminger (Jr.), Jacob Crater (Jr.), Logan Guillou (Sr.), Kamden Kowalenko (Jr.)

Outlook: The Cardinals enter this season with one of the best teams in school history, only rivaled by their 2013 team that took 7th at the state meet. The difference between that squad and this one is the fact that this one could potentially have two all-staters.

The duo of Jack Willenborg and Elijah Teefey had massive track seasons and will look to carry that into the XC season. Teefey was one of the best freshmen in all of the state, he ran 4:34 in the 1600m and 10:05 in the 3200m. Willenborg had a great season last year, but he didn't have his best state meet. Expect that to change with him running 4:38 in the 1600m and 10:02 in the 3200m.

Ryan Driskill wasn't much of a difference maker during the season last year but looks to be a massive difference maker to this squad now. He ran 10:31 in the 3200m on the track and we may see another major jump throughout the year for him. Cole Payne was the fifth runner on this team last year. He enters the season as one of the best fourth runners in the state if that is where he ends up in the order this season. Where this squad can improve is with their fifth runner. Currently, that's slated to be Ethan Griminger, but he projects to be over 17:00.

8. Peoria (Notre Dame)

Head Coach/Coaches: Dan Gray

Last Year's Finish: IHSA 2A State Meet- 16th place

Key Returners: Andrew Elward (Sr.), Joe Ehrhart (Sr.), Danny Miller (Sr.), Boden Nosalik (Jr.), Owen Magner (Sr.), Dax Duffy (So.), Jake Heberer (Jr.)

Key Newcomers: Joshua Stedwill (Fr.), Maxwell Kirby (Fr.)

Outlook: The Irish have moved down a classification down to 1A now after historically being a 2A program. Andrew Elward is the top returner after placing within the top 100 at last year's state meet. He ran 9:52 on the track in the 3200m and that will put him into contention to be a potential all-stater.

Next up will be the duo of Maxwell Kirby and Joe Ehrhart. Kirby is new to this squad after an amazing IESA career. He has been arguably the best IESA runner over the last two years. Ehrhart is the second-best returner from this team. Expect him to break 16:00 this season. He should be up in the top 50 runners for the classification. Wrapping up the squad looks to be Danny Miller, Broden Nosalik, and Owen Magner. Expect all of them to break the 16:30 barrier.

Head Coach/Coaches: Gregg Meyers / Cooper Hoffmann, Mike Sullivan, Tom Gorham, Kyle Anderson
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 11th place
Key Returners: Isaiah Hill (Sr.), Aiden Faulkner (So.), Mika Nelson (Jr.), LJ Higgs (Sr.), Reed Florey (Jr.), Garrett Webster (So.), Kam Stevenson (So.)
Key Newcomers: Darwin Herman (So.)
Outlook: The Trojans have been one of the most historic teams in the 1A classification for a long time now and return with another great squad.

They will be led by all-star Isaiah Hill who had to have one the most impressive performances by a distance runner at the state track meet. He ran 1:52 in his team's 4x800m relay, then took 4th in the open 800 with a 1:55, and ended his day with a second-place finish in the 1600m with a new PR of 4:19. He looks poised to be in condition for a state title this fall.

The trio of Mika Nelson, Reed Florey, and Aiden Faulkner will follow Hill. These three only had 13 spots separate them at state last year with Florey and Faulkner both placing in the top 100. Expect these three to be interchangeable all season. Rounding out the scoring five will be LJ Higgs who took 120th at the state meet last year as the team's sixth runner. The key thing for the Trojans will be trying to keep him up with their trio. Coach Meyers stated, "I think we have a chance to be a top 5 team in the state if we can learn to work together, complete our practices as a whole team, and develop a good race mentality"

Head Coach/Coaches: Michael Melick
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 10th place
Key Returners: Isaac Porzelius (Jr.), Dean Witzig (Sr.), Lukas Holderby (Sr.), Pierson Romerberger (Jr.), Nicholas Harston (Sr.), Drew Cooper (So.), Kole Rigsby (Sr.), Israel Nowark (So.), Reed Newcomb (Sr.)
Key Newcomers: Elijah Webster (Fr.), Caleb Graham (Sr.)
Outlook: The Titans return five members from their state-qualifying team from last year. They look to be set up for another top-10 finish as a team this season. They will be led by breakout runner Dean Witzig who was the third runner on this team last year. He had an amazing track season where he ran 9:48 in the 3200m. He was an all-stater in the event, he will be a potential top-10 runner in the classification this fall.

Isaac Porzelius is the top returner from last year's squad with his 63rd-place finish at the state meet. He was an all-stater on the track as part of the 4x800m. Lukas Holderby had a great track season that saw him run 10:21 in the 3200m. That is major for the athlete that took 109th at the state meet last year. Pierson Romersberger was just outside of the scoring five a year ago. This time he will have a much bigger role. He had a great 1600m over the track season running 4:54. Rounding out the scoring five projects to be Nicholas Harston. He ran 4:57 on the track. If he sees major improvement we could see this group potentially be a top-five team in the state. Expect Caleb Graham to make an impact. The former football player was part of this squad all-state 4x800m in the spring. He could be a scoring member of this squad.

Head Coach/Coaches: Jason Retz / Chelsea Blaase, Jim Acklin, Andrew Pilat
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 18th place
Key Returners: Carson Maroon (Sr.), Holden Jones (Sr.), Lance Retz (So.), Aden Armstrong (Sr.), Jack Fisher (Jr.), Isiah Mock (Sr.), Mason Guido (Jr.)
Key Newcomers: Nate Farney (Fr.), Colin Burnett (Fr.)
Outlook: The Spartans enter this season with what feels like a lot to prove after a few seasons in a row now where their state meet hasn't lived up to expectations. They will be led by Carson Maroon who has had a storybook of a career up to this point. After being an all-stater in both the 1600m and 3200m this past year, he looks poised to be a top 10 runner in the classification. He might be the first athlete in school history to break the 15:00 barrier.

Next up will be the duo of Lance Retz and Holden Jones. Retz was this squad's top dog last season as a freshman. He had a great 4:44 PR for the 1600m on the track. Jones was not a part of this squad's qualifying team last season but made a name for himself after running 10:15 in the 3200m and qualifying for the state track meet. To round out this squad Aden Armstrong, Jack Fisher, Isaiah Mock, and Mason Guido will all battle it out to round out the scoring positions.

All of these athletes will be interchangeable and that will only make this squad a lot better. Coach Retz stated about his team "If we continue to grow, we may see them blossom. At some point, it will happen. If it happens over the course of the season, that's just a bonus. Setting them up to be successful as people will happen if they continue to progress everyday and student-athletes"

Head Coach/Coaches: Julian Murphy
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 8th place
Key Returners: Brady Kataoka (Sr.), James Barder (Jr.), John Kipp (Sr.), CJ Pronek (Sr.), Peter Kipp (So.), Brennan McNamara (Sr.), Tommy Hansen (Jr.)
Outlook: The Knights have undergone a coaching change with Julian Murphy taking over for Mike Egle. They have been a very successful program over the last few years with this team having a great chance at a trophy. The squad will be led by Brady Kataoka who just missed all-state status with a 27th-place finish. Over the track season, he ran great with a mark of 4:23 in the 1600m. He could be a potential top-10 runner in the classification this season.

Next up will be John Kipp and James Barder who both were next to each other at the state meet taking 45th and 46th place. Expect both to be in all-state contention as well, notably Kipp who had a great track season with a mark of 4:30 in the 1600m. CJ Pronek projects to be this group's fourth runner. He took 66th at the state meet last year and looks to be a top 50 athlete this time. Peter Kipp wraps up their scoring five as he looks to be sub 16:30. We may see him make a big jump as he goes from a freshman to a sophomore.

Head Coach/Coaches: Brett McLain
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 5th place
Key Returners: Gavin Genisio (Sr.), Gabe McLain (Jr.), Cole Buchanan (Jr.), Mason Tieffel (Sr.), Seager Sanchez (So.), Kaden Blades (So.), Parker Johnson (Jr.), Jack Bacon (Sr.)
Outlook: The Rangers return all of their scoring five from their 5th place team last year. They return defending state champion Gavin Genisio. He had a great track season that saw him win a state championship in the 1600m going 4:08 and running 9:09 in the 3200m in his only true attempt at running fast in the event. He looks to be back as the favorite and it will be interesting to see if he can run in the 14:10s.

Gabe McLain returns with a top 10 finish at last year's state meet which saw him finish ninth and that makes this 1-2 punch probably the second-best in the state. He had a great track season running 9:30 for the 3200m and surely will look to go after a top-five finish this season. Cole Buchanan rounds out this squad's all-state experience as he placed 15th at the state meet. He only ran 800s during the track season so we will have to see if he has to knock off some rust before getting back after it for three miles. He could be a potential top-10 finisher. The biggest thing that will help the Rangers is the development of their fourth and fifth runners who project to be Mason Teiffel and Seager Sanchez. If both of them get under the 16:00 barrier, this squad will be almost a lock to bring home a trophy.

Head Coach/Coaches: Olivia Morris / Matt O'Hanlon, Tom Engelhorn, Kurt Hinrichsen, Kellen Ehrenhardt
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 9th place
Key Returners: Carson Lehman (Sr.), Tucker Hinkle (Jr.), Brady Monk (Sr.), Andrew Perry (Sr.), Gavin Stalter (So.), Connell Roth (So.), Nathanael Otto (Sr.), Jacob Skutt (Sr.), Jackson Vogel (Sr.), Tim Rogers (So.), Aiden Hoekstra (Sr.)
Key Newcomers: Josiah Rokey, Landon Wurmnest, Johnny Bender, Ian Scott, Hunter Reeb, Logan Fox, Cade Strawn, Asher Zehr, Cooper Hinkle, Zeke Zobrist.
Outlook: The Hornets enter this season after making major improvements over the track season. They will be led by Andrew Perry who had a great showing in the 3200m this year. He ran 9:47 at the HOI Conference Meet. He also finished 13th in the event at the track state meet. He finished 58th at state last season and expect him to be an all-stater this fall.

Tucker Hinkle very much like Perry had a huge season in the 3200m breaking 10:00 in the event with a 9:59. He will be a potential all-stater this year. It will be interesting to see how close Brady Monk and Carson Lehman can get to Hinkle as both as well can be all-staters. Rounding out their fifth man looks to be either Jackson Vogel or Tim Rogers. Vogel had a great season running 4:47 in the 1600m but really didn't have a whole lot of impressive times after that.

Coach Morris has stated that Rogers has had some great training this summer, he may surprise a lot of people this season. Coach Morris stated, "We are a team that does not lack in leadership, I think we have 11 seniors, eight of them that will be four-year letter winners. They are excited and motivated to make sure this is their most competitive season yet. We are each athlete to learn something about themselves as an athlete, and to work hard to end the season reaching their goals."