STMA cross country teams open season with experience

The 2017 STMA Cross Country captains include front row, left to right, Molly Brenny, Annalise Davis, and Kayden Geiger. Back row: Jonah Breuer, Michael Youngberg, and Joey Och. (Photo by Bill Halldin)

The 2017 versions of the STMA boys and girls cross country teams return much experience and have worked hard to set themselves up for successful seasons.

They also have a new look as they have split into separate boys and girls programs for the first time in history.

After being head coach of the boys and girls cross country teams at STMA for the past 11 seasons, Gregg Greeno will be the head coach of just the boys while former STMA cross country assistant coach, Heather Strait, will take over the head position for the STMA girls.

Greeno will be assisted by Dennis Kucera with Matt Venaas assisting Coach Strait. Andy Cleveland and John Hertwig will be coaching the 7th and 8th grade cross country teams. Kucera replaces Kevin Crocker as an assistant with Crocker retiring from teaching and coaching at STMA last spring.

The Knight girls will be attempting to defend both their Conference and Section titles from a year ago and are led by All-State performer junior, Annalise Davis, who was the individual Conference and Section champion and earned All-State by placing 11th at the State Meet. The Knight girls finished 8th out of 16 teams at the State Meet in 2016.

Coach Strait welcomed 63 girls (grades 9-12) as the season opened Monday Aug. 14, including 12 returning letterwinners. Returning letterwinners include: seniors Kaydan Geiger, Madison Lenarz, and Naomi Peterson; juniors Annalise Davis, Gretchen Manderfeld, Claire Pelant, Taylor Peterson, Mia Salas, and Ella Windell; and sophomores Anna Belair, Paige McAloon, and Mia Rooker. Geiger, Davis, Salas, Belair, and McAloon were All-Conference, while Davis and Salas also qualified for the State Meet as individuals. Gretchen Manderfeld earned Honorable Mention All-Conference last season. Captains for the 2017 season are seniors Molly Brenny and Kaydan Geiger along with junior Annalise Davis.

“We are very excited about our team”, commented Coach Strait. “The girls paid their dues this summer by putting in the miles. They are talented distance runners, but what I really appreciate about them is their attitude and work ethic. They are a coachable group and they’re fun to work with.”

The Knights open their season at Monticello Saturday, Sept. 9, at Bertram Lake Regional Park near the YMCA Camp waterslide. STMA hosted a 4-team scrimmage Friday Aug. 25, where the varsity lineup for the Knights was determined for their opening meet. The Knights varsity will be made up of juniors Annalise Davis and Mia Salas, sophomores Anna Belair and Paige McAloon, freshman Jessica Immer, and 8th graders Katie Sigerud and Ali Weimer. Race time for the varsity girls is 12 noon and JV girls run at 11 AM.

Coach Greeno welcomed 69 boys for the opening day of practice. 10 returning letterwinners give the Knights some depth and experience and they are led by captains, seniors Joey Och and Michael Youngberg, and junior Jonah Breuer. Returning letterwinners include: seniors Och and Younberg; juniors Breuer, Tyler Bartholomew, Tommy Hamilton, Carter Knaus, Jack Petersen, and Luke Peterson; and sophomores Alex McAloon and Mitch Meilahn. Breuer, Knaus, and Och earned All-Conference honors a year ago, while Luke Peterson and Jack Petersen were Hononrable Mention All-Conference. Junior Jonah Breuer returns as an individual State qualifier from last season.

Conference rival, Buffalo, prevented the STMA boys from winning their 4th straight Conference title, last season, as the Knights finished runnerup to Buffalo in the 10-team Mississippi-8 Conference

Coach Greeno said, “Our three captains Joey Och, Michael Youngberg, and Jonah Breuer did a great job of leadership this summer. Like the girls team, the boys put in a lot of miles which will hopefully translate into success for the season. By putting in consistent miles in preparation for the season, it obviously gets us in shape, but it also prevents injuries once the season starts and helps build team unity by making those sacrifices, together in the summer.”

The Knight boys also start their regular season at Bertram Lake Park at the Monticello Invitational on Saturday September 9th. Varsity boys compete at 11:35 AM and JV Boys run at 10:35 a.m.

Running varsity for the STMA boys in their opening meet are: Jonah Breuer, Carter Knaus, Joey Och, Michael Youngberg, Mitch Meilahn, Tyler Bartholomew, and Tommy Hamilton.

Jr. High races at Monticello for boys and girls start at 10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., respectively.