Baxter’s boys cross country team graduated a four-time state qualifier in Logan Berg last year. And head coach Dennis Vaughn admitted it’s a bit of a rebuilding season.
But the Baxter girls should be in the mix for another Iowa Star Conference title with a key returner, two standout freshmen and a big addition to the roster.
“I certainly believe that if we stay healthy, the girls will compete for a conference title,” Vaughn said. “With Elie (Tuhn) and Kailee (Conradi) potentially leading the group, and with a solid core rounding out the team, we should be stronger through five runners than last year.”
The girls roster welcomes back senior Kailee Conradi, who has been one of the top varsity runners the past three years. She was sixth in the conference meet last year and finished 39th in the Class 1A state qualifier at Marshalltown.
Junior Elie Tuhn is the newcomer. She transfers in from Nevada after running near the top of the Cubs’ lineup her first two years. She was 14th at the Heart of Iowa Conference meet last year and placed 21st in a 3A state qualifier in Pella.
Tuhn’s time of 21 minutes, 26 seconds at the state qualifier would have clinched a state berth in all but one of the 1A state qualifiers.
The rest of the girls’ lineup includes senior newcomer Merrin Ziesman and freshmen Regan Russell and Morgan Hansen.
Vaughn said he was still finalizing his roster for both boys and girls and may get a few more out before the first meet.
On the boys’ side, only senior Sean Finch is back from last year’s team. This year’s roster includes three freshmen and a junior who has never been out before.
After Finch, the rest of the team includes junior Curtis Gliem and freshmen Logan Jones, Keenan Varner and Jayden Bakalar.
“The boys will certainly be young this year,” Vaughn said. “This will be a year of growth. Sean could be our only returning runner. Much of our focus will be on times and individual performances before we begin looking for teams to compete against and team goals.
“Curtis will be a great addition both as a strong runner and an upperclassmen.”
Vaughn struggled with knowing what to give for his team’s expectations in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. No one is really sure how it will affect the final outcome of fall sports.
Vaughn is both worried and confident at the same time.
“There are so many things up in the air,” Vaughn said. “Will we avoid injuries and be able to score as both a boys and girls team? Will we miss practices or meets due to COVID?
“Our runners have handled this very well so far. With our small numbers and being outside, the practices are manageable. I am a bit more concerned with meets, but we will prepare the runners for this as we prepare them for the other challenges of competing.”