Following is a rundown on the area’s boys cross country squads.
Longtime track-and-field coach Pat Koelzer takes the reins of the Livonia Franklin boys cross country team.
While Koelzer is new to the role, he’s has a wealth of cross-country coaching experience that includes 10 years at Livonia’s Emerson Middle School. He will be assisted by former Franklin runner Austin Jones.
The Patriots’ lineup will be front-ended by two-time state qualifier Tony Floyd, a senior.
“Tony broke the school’s 5K record last season and he has put in some quality work this summer,” Koelzer said. “He’s looking to build on last season’s successes.”
Junior Matt Lepper and sophomore Grant Rudd will also be near the front of the Patriots’ pack, Koelzer assured.
“Rudd has been one of our hardest workers this summer, while Lepper, who shows a lot of talent, has bought in to our training plan and looks to improve this season,” the first-year coach noted. “Where these two runners finish in dual meets will go a long way in determining how we do as a team.”
Several runners are locked in a spirited competition for the remaining varsity slots on the Patriots roster. Among the contenders are sophomores Jackson Nordbeck and Greg Thaxton, and freshmen Logan Evanchuk and Mike Mackiewicz.
Providing valuable depth will be senior newcomer Brendan Whitney, junior Ian Hogg, who has been training through an injury all summer, sophomore Trevor Doyle and freshmen Russell Rusnell and Jake Gates, Koelzer said.
“Coming off of the graduation of five runners who ran varsity for some or all of the season, we are a bit short on experience,” Koelzer said. “More than half of the team is new and two-thirds are in ninth or 10th grade. But our numbers are up this year.
“What this team may lack in experience, they look to make up for in hunger and work ethic. They have embraced a culture of hard work and competitiveness and they are learning about proper form and the how and why of training and workouts. They are eager to get a few races under their belts and see how they fare against area competition.”
Although the Patriots were just 1-4 in dual meets last fall, they were within striking distance in each contest.
“While it is difficult to set season expectations when half of the varsity has yet to run a 5K race, this team will not be satisfied unless it is in the mix, contending for the city and the KLAA south division, with strong showings at the conference and regional meets,” Koelzer said. “It will be fun to watch our more experienced lead runners work to reach new heights while the newcomers gain confidence and valuable experience with each race.”
The Chargers’ deep roster is paced by returning standouts Jon Hovermale, Josh Mussen, Clint Cowen and Dash Dobar.
Other key athletes head coach John McGreevy is counting on include Delson Christian, Frank Lafave, Alex Piper, Trevor Kornaga and Mitch Bartoszyk.
Among the Chargers’ top young harriers are Pablo Aguilar and Will Hengy.
“Our guys are serious about improving and they aren’t afraid of working hard,” McGreevy said. “I believe we can be competitive in our division, and I would like the team to be in the top half of the conference.
“The key to this team is how the new guys respond to the demands and expectations of being a top-seven runner. There is a lot of pressure on the juniors.”
The Zebras will be working to put together a encore to last season’s school-best performance when it won the KLAA South Division, placed first in three invitationals and was runner-up in the talent-rich Wayne County Championships.
“This is a rebuilding year for Wayne Memorial,” head coach Tom Gibson said. “We will be competitive and may even surprise a few teams as the team develops throughout September.
“This is a very dedicated group of young men. They worked hard and pushed themselves through some very demanding practices during camp week.”
The Zebras will be paced by junior captain Jamie Carranza, a three-year varsity runner who registered the fastest sophomore time at Wayne (17 minutes, 47 seconds) since 1992.
First-year senior Kaleb Allen has looked good early on, Gibson added.
“Kaleb is a thrower and sprinter in track and has been running with Jamie Carranza during practice,” Gibson said. “He is an excellent addition to the team.”
Other pivotal performers include sophomore Cody Macuga, junior Tyler Westfall, junior Sagib Garcia, senior Trever Lloyd and junior Dennis Williams.
“We lost six seniors out of 12 runners (four of whom are running at the college level) and only return three due to a season-ending injury and other commitments,” Gibson said. “We will be competitive though and hope to finish in top half of the invitationals we run.
“We have some talented athletes who have never run cross country before that will surprise even themselves on what they can accomplish this year.”
Head coach Chris Inch has set several solid goals for the Spartans this fall to build on last season’s 2-3 dual-meet record.
“Our team expectations are a positive dual-meet record, to place high at the multi-team invites, and to mature and improve throughout the season for our best racing at the biggest meets at the end of the year (county, conference, regionals),” Inch said.
Senior Andrew Bambach will be looked upon to fill the huge spikes left by the graduation of Erik Grisa.
“Andrew will fill the front-runner role,” he said. “Nathan Wilson, Alex Brauer and Nathan Wilson are looking good. We have a number of runners who will fight for the five to seven varsity positions.”
Among the battlers are Jacob Bieganski, Ben Griffith, Jeremy Webb. Others who have shown promise include Trevor Tillman, Sean O’Meara, Chuck McDougall, Jason Dilworth and Alex Stratton.
“While Andrew Bambach is our front-runner, I like the strength and improvement I see from our junior class: Nathan Ward, Nathan Wilson, Alex Brauer, Jeremy Webb, and Trevor Tillman,” Inch said. “Packing up and keeping the spread down between Andrew and the pack will be the key to our success. I expect we will mature and improve throughout the season.”