By Cara L. Dempski
BOYCEVILLE — Last year, senior Jack Kapsner suffered a season-ending injury and coach Corey Day said that hurt the team’s end result. Still, he said the season wasn’t a loss for him.
“I felt the process of the atheletes getting better each meet was achieved and will serve as a stepping stone for this year,” Day said.
The Bulldogs are coming off what Day describes as the best summer the team has had. He credited Kapsner with this saying that he (Kapsner) did a great job with summer running and encouraging others to run with him. Kapsner also served as third runner on last year’s team and Day said he provided the younger runners with good learship while being a positive role model.
Returning this year as seniors on the Bulldogs boys’ team are Max Engel, Sam Retz, Kiel Anderson, Jerod Nelson and Michael Chich. Engel will serve as the team’s captain and has consistently put in a lot of time running during the summer.
Retz was named second team all-conference in 2015, narrowly missing first team honors. Anderson was sidelined by a foot surgery last fall, but had a solid track season, as did Chich. Finishing the group of senior men, Nelson had a much stronger summer running program.
“This has been a special group and for them to be seniors, it should be really exciting,” Day said.
Joining the senior talent is junior Rian Corr, who Day says will be impressive in combination with the five seniors. Other juniors on the boys’ team are Ryker Ferg, Emmett Kapsner and Casey Owen. Sophomore Brennan Wheeldon and freshman Josh Volk are also hoping to make contributions to the team in 2016.
Emma Harnisch is the sole senior returning for the Lady Bulldogs this year. She will be joined by juniors Lauren Dominick and Shiann Wagner. Wagner competed at state as freshman in 2014.
Junior Marissa Dormanen will be helping as a leader from the sideline following ACL surgery. The team is excited to have junior Emily Voelker joining the team this year, as she has seen successful as a track team member.
The five upperclass runners for the girls will be followed by freshmen Naomi Hillman and Noelle Wheeldon. Day describes Wheeldon as having a tremendous work ethic, while Hillman has a “wow factor” of talent. He believes “the sky is the limit” for both runners.
While the boys’ team will have strength in experience, the girls are somewhat lacking in that commodity.
Day said of his team “I believe it will be a year to tremendously improve our girls’ program, and I believe this group of boys will be very competitive in the conference and sectional.”
In order to combat the lack of depth in experienced runners, Day’s team is going to have to stay healthy and maintain their ability to work together. He said that the team wants to win, but it stave off injuries and all team members must maintain their grades. Day and the team will focus not just on statistics, but on the improvement process and the life lessons presented throughout the season.
“We simply want to be better than we were the day before on the course, in school, and in social areas of life,” Day stated.
Day, who is in his eighth year coaching cross country, said that Durand has a lot of top runners coming back on their boys’ team, while Colfax has some talented girls back this year. He also is looking at Elk Mound’s depth as a challenge.
Day will again be assisted by volunteer coach Jacob Peterson, who was an All-American cross country runner while a student at UW – LaCrosse.
The Bulldogs hosted their first meet of the year on August 25 with the annual running of the Alumni Invitational. The squads will then compete at St. Croix Central this Thursday before breaking for the Labor Day Holiday.
Seniors: Emma Harnisch, Kiel Anderson, Michael Chich, Maxwell Engel, Jerod Nelson, Samuel Retz.
Juniors: Lauren Dominick, Marissa Dormanen, Emily Voelker, Shiann Wagner, Rian Corr, Ryker Ferg, Emmett Kapsner, Casey Owen.
Sophomores: Brennan Wheeldon.
Freshmen: Naomi Hillman, Noelle Wheeldon, Josh Volk.