By DAVE PEDERSEN
Crow River News Sports
It is not often when a coach can say it has all varsity starters returning to a high school cross country team. Jason Hester can proclaim it for both Rockford’s boys and girls teams this season.
Last season a very young Rocket varsity girls team included two sophomores, two eighth-graders and three seventh-graders.
Rockford finished second at the Wright County Conference meet behind Annandale and in front of Dassel-Cokato.
Ellie Sather, now a ninth-grader, finished third, just three seconds away from second place and 12 seconds behind the champion. Junior Grace Clark was fifth out of 55 runners entered.
All varsity runners return including eighth-graders Natasha James, Alix Gifford, Hannah Moe and Makayla Graunke, junior Erin Hopkins, and ninth-grader Sydney Boyd.
Newcomer Ava Cusciotta, an eighth-grader who helped a Rocket track relay place at state last spring, is expected to contribute.
“The girls have high expectations for the season as they have sent Grace Clark to the state meet the past two years,” notes Hester. “They are a very focused group with the goal of winning conference and sending more than one runner to state. Another year of experience is huge since they know what to expect.”
The only senior is Charlotte Faue. The girls roster includes sophomore Stella Smith, ninth-graders Aigul Simpson, Grace Zimmerman, Gretta Greniger and Torrey Hagen-Johnson, eighth-grader Emma Sather, and seventh-graders Meadow Freshour and Sophie Hanson.
Rockford’s boys also all return, led by seniors Lucas Klonne and Caleb Duerr, sophomores Nolan Aker and Jack Hanson, plus ninth-grader Michael Nelson.
“I am expecting improvement from last year just for the fact that they are a year older and are stronger runners,” says Hester. “We have added two other runners who have the potential to help the varsity. Sophomore Nels Trandahl had success on the track team and has been a soccer player the past few years. Sophomore Leo Duffy will provide added depth to the team.”
The roster includes seniors Joseph Dieter, Keegan Finger and Tanner Robinson; sophomores Andrew Finger, Anthony Mangan, Carter Kluavik, Evan Hubbs and Ryan Fleischhacker, plus seventh-grader Jacob Fuglie.