Grace’s cross country team might be the youngest squad in the Crossroads League this season, but the Lancers refuse to let its youth be a crutch in 2015.
Of the 20 runners on the men’s and women’s teams under head coach Jeff Raymond, nine of the student-athletes are freshmen. Additionally, there are no four-year seniors on either squad.
Raymond maintains, however, that Grace’s talent and leadership are enough for the Lancers to yield improved times this fall.
“This is a very young team. However, I believe we have some solid leadership on the team, and I am excited to see how the entire squad develops,” Raymond said. “We had a great retreat to start the season, and I’m very encouraged by the team unity I already see developing.”
Grace’s theme for the year is “Rise Up.” Raymond said the team is focused on not settling this year. “We talked a lot at our retreat about not settling for mediocrity in all areas of our lives. We want to have our focus set on glorifying God by fully striving for high goals. I’m not sure what that will mean for places or finishes, but I’m confident we can be better both on the men’s and women’s sides than we were a year ago.”
Leading Grace’s returners on the men’s side are sophomores Nathan Lane and Tyler Houvener. The duo were two of the fastest freshmen last year as both produced personal-best times under 26:15. While Lane is rehabbing from injury, Raymond hopes he will be full strength by the postseason races.
Juniors Brandon Smith, Hunter Reed and Brendon Lengacher, and sophomores Reid Fouty and Tim Drew will be counted on to be leaders both in and out of competition.
Raymond added three freshmen to the men’s team, and all three have potential to finish in Grace’s top seven. Brendan Hamilton (Calvary Christian, Mich.) was an All-State performer in track and has a “bright future ahead of him,” according to Raymond. Sam Hall (Wabash) and Joel Bertelsen (Worthington Christian, Ohio) have also impressed in the preseason.
On the women’s roster, junior Katelyn McCullough headlines Grace’s returners. She has been the Lady Lancers’ top runner since her freshman year and comes into this fall ready to challenge for an All-League finish, according to Raymond. Junior Sarah Hoff and sophomores Emma Mitchell and Aletheia Burritt also figure to play key roles in the team’s success.
Six new Lady Lancers join the team in 2015, including twins Ariel and Raven Arellano (Dublin-Scioto, Ohio), Karla Singer (Northfield), Liz Fox (Hebron), Cassandra Rashley (Pike-Delta-York, Ohio) and Julia Neal (Martinsville). Singer and the Arellanos come from traditionally strong high school programs and should be factors from the first race.
While the young Lancers should not lack on talent, Raymond noted that one area they are focused on is confidence. The potential is there for a good year, he said, but “individually and as a team we need to be confident in our God-given abilities and be willing to stretch ourselves to approach that potential.”
Grace’s team will kick off its season on Friday at the Stephen Kearney Classic in Westville, Ind.