BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Rockford will have a lot of competition early in the cross country season when taking part in two major invitational’s within a week.
The season opens for both the boys and girls squads at the Maple Lake Invitational, 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 30. Next comes the Rocket Run, Rockford’s 20-team invitational, 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5 at Shamrock golf course in Corcoran.
Rockford will also enter the Norwood-Young America Invitational, 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10 and the Delano Invitational, 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12.
Second year varsity head coach Jason Hester said he has 28 runners out so far. All of the top runners on the boys team return.
Leaders last year were senior Ty Griffin and junior Nick Klonne. Griffin is a defending state wrestling champ and one of the top Rocket golfers.
Others who are not far behind are seniors Austin Witthuhn and Austin Achtelik, as well as juniors Drew Hafften, Brannon Winters and Nico VanDanacker. Competing for varsity spots are junior Nathan Schumacher and ninth-grader Joe Pothast.
“We return a lot of experience and should compete for the Central Minnesota Conference championship,” notes Hester. “The runners started the season in great shape and are looking forward to their first meet.”
The Rocket girls lost two runners to graduation and have a small and young group this season. The returning runners are only in their second year of running cross country.
The lone senior is Megan Bode, who is joined by junior Eliza Shedlov, sophomore Anya Cady and ninth-grader Liz Nelson, who is ranked as the top runner.
Sophomore Emma Hawley returns after playing soccer for two years. Eighth-grader Charlotte Faue and seventh-grader Erin Hopkins have run well in practice.
“Once we let some of the girls get some experience running JH and JV races, I would expect them to finish in the middle of the pack in the Central Minnesota Conference,” adds Hester.