The Lourdes Academy girls cross country team had a down year last year. If you can even call it that.
The Knights still made it to the WIAA Division 3 State Cross Country meet after collecting a sectional title, finishing eighth at the state meet.
But after falling short of making it three state titles in a row, those girls returning to this year’s squad — which is all of them — might have felt they fell a bit below expectations.
“I know they were disappointed,” said Lourdes’ first-year head coach Paul Brown, “But we haven’t talked about it and I don’t want to talk about it.”
This season presents a chance for a redemption of sorts for the Lourdes girls, who return every single runner from their state qualifying squad last year.
That includes individual sectional champion Nora Keller, seniors Maeve McDonald, Abby Moore, Maddy Reed and Angela Koppa and juniors Cecily Vandenhouten and Shay Mains.
Keller, McDonald, Moore and Reed all have the experience of winning a state title as well.
Brown knows what he got himself into and he’s extremely happy about it.
“I fell into a great situation,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of talent and we’re having fun with it. It’s amazing how funny and how good of kids they are. I look forward to going to practice everyday.”
Brown also brings something to the table, having coached at UW-Oshkosh. He hopes that his approaches give the girls an added boost this season.
“I’m getting the girls to understand the goals we want to accomplish every day,” he said. “We want them mentally prepared to tackle those obsticles during the season and then set them up for good things to happen at the end of the season.”
That combination of experience and coaching should put Lourdes in a good position to be one of the Division 3 favorites once again this season.
At least Brown thinks so, even though he’s keeping things in perspective.
“We know we have a talented crew,” he said. “Obviously we want to make it back and have a good showing. But I don’t want to put the pressure on them.
“Our goals are we want everyone to improve. If that happens, good things will happen when that part of the season rolls around.”
The Spartans return a healthy amount of experience from last year’s squad, including two honorable mention all-FVA honorees
Seniors Brooklyn Schamens and Michaela Welsh each received honorable mention all-Fox Valley Association a year ago.
They are joined by returning seniors Ashley Schoen and Brett Schallhorn along with junior Angela Bahr.
Coach Steve Danza believes that his squad will be led into the top five of conference thanks to their veteran lineup.
The Wildcats return basically everyone from last year’s team.
Oshksoh West will be led at the top by returning senior and second-team all-FVA runner Katie Vils.
Also returning are honorable mention all-conference performers in junior Lexi Briskie and sophomore Natalie Haag.
With the depth and talent returning, Oshkosh West hopes that they can challenge the top teams in the Fox Valley Association and at their sectional race.
The Foxes return two-time state qualifier in junior Taryn Bosquez to lead their squad this year.
Omro also returns a pair of senior returners in Kelly Emmrich and Catalina Beriau.
After that, it gets young for the Foxes, who are bringing in a healthy amount of freshmen into the season.
Coach Tom Dobberstein hopes that his team, led by his top three returners can make it into the top half of the Flyway Conference this year.
The Wolves return six letterwinners, including second-team all-Eastern Valley Conference and state qualifying runner Abi Salm.
Joning her are seniors Lizzi Pettit and Megan Berndt, juniors Demie Geiger and Sarah Wenzel and sophomore Madi Hanseder.
The Wolves hope that their returning talent and numbers — 13 this year for coach Kraig Western — can help them make as push towards the top of the always tough EVC.
The Indians look poised to make it back to the WIAA state meet as a team again after making it last year, as they return seven of their top eight from the qualifying squad last season.
Berlin will be led by senior Kinsey Harmon, who qualified twice individually for the state meet before going with the team last year.
Harmon was also a first-team all-EVC last season.
Joining her will be junior all-conference honoress Taylor Greening and Anna Falk as well as Audry Doro, Malerie Harmon, Steph Melchor and Alyssa Thiel.
Berlin hopes that their talented, experienced, deep team can compete for a EVC title as well as return to the state meet.
The Tigers will be spearheaded by three-time state individual qualifier and returning first-team all-EVC runner in senior Katelin Cunningham.
Also returning are seniors Emma Thirsten, Taylor Beck and Ariana Hones and sophomore Kaitlynn Azinger, who all were a part of the Tigers third-place team at sectionals last year.
Although losing some seniors from last year, Ripon hopes their returning talent can keep them competitve in the very tough EVC this season and possibly get them over the hump for a state trip.
The Warriors will field a full squad, led by seniorrunner Phoebe Giffey-Brohaugh.
Elizabeth Mohline, Katie Schiltz, Alexis Ballard, Olivia Knitt and Floria Jung will round out the rest of the Valley Christian squad, with some of those girls returning to the team.
The Warriors hope that their full team and returning runners lead to more success this season.