Cross country preview: Palmyra's deep roster should ease coaching transition
It didn't take Dave Hollen long to get acclimated in his new digs as head coach of the Palmyra Cougars cross country team.
Hollen, who replaced long-time Cougars coach Barb Mellinger, took the reins only a month ago but made sure his deep roster got off to a great start.
Mellinger, who led the Cougars to the 2012 PIAA title, resigned her positions as teacher and coach within Palmyra earlier this year.
Hollen, who moved over from Lower Dauphin, wasted little time as the Cougars won the LVC Invitational earlier this month, placing five runners in the top 22.
Palmyra sports one of the deepest rosters in the area, which should ease the transition from Mellinger to Hollen.
Here's a look at the area teams running this season:
Head coaches: Sue Sutcliffe, girls; Ben Rhoads, boys.
Returning girls: Angela Fair, Katia Luu, Sarah Domencic
Top newcomers: Zoe Sweigert, Zoee Garis.
Returning boys: Shelby Bauer, so., Doyle Shertzer so., Caleb Wenger, so., Brandon Mullins jr., Anthony Frattarole, jr., Derek Bosworth, sr.
Top newcomers: Ethan Fortuna, fr., Hayden Taylor, so., Preston Ceravalo, sr.
Outlook: Sutcliffe said the girls' team had a great attitude during the preseason. "Our goal is to work together to prepare ourselves for the postseason and competition." On the boys' side, Rhodes said the smaller roster is actually a good thing. "Some may think that is a bad thing, I look at it as a blessing in disguise because it allows our youth to grow," Rhoads said. "We lost five great runners in Jeff Inman, Jon Zechman, Michael Darok, Matt Darok, and Tyler Carpenter. All of which, made our program great. Now it is time for Frattarole, Wenger, and Shertzer to assume those roles and make this team their own."
Head coach: Brandon Risser
Returning girls: Mackenzie Shiner, Brianna Laliberte, Kyla Waldron, Gwyneth Davis, Ashley Stalnecker, Elizabeth Nazeeri.
Top newcomers: Taylor Laliberte, Cate Strunk, Sara Leuschner, Krysta Weik, Pam Wuori.
Returning boys: Matthew Royer, Jesse Cruise, Bryce Vukovich, Adam Wolfe, Noah Bragunier, Luke Clarkson, Dylan Mehler.
Key newcomers: Josh Rudd, Nick Blandy, Jake Barrett.
Outlook: Risser has a group to replace, losing Jared Glosser, Tanner Craun, David Deysher and Noah Redcay on the boys' side and Rachel Smith, Michelle Kiss, Kelsey Lyter and Janessa Cruz on the girls' side.
Head coach: Charles Gerberich
Returning girls: Hannah Rich sr., Brenna Troutman, so., Danielle Nelson, jr.
Newcomers: Jalissa Nolt, so.
Returning boys: Jared Harnish, sr., Ryan McAlister, so., Aaron Zurick, sr., Sterling Hetrick jr.
Top newcomers: Hunter Hartranft so., Jared Weaver, so., Grant Brubaker so., Chris Habowski so.
Outlook: Gerberich has some concerns about the depth on his girls' roster. "We are just hoping to keep five runners healthy so we can compete as a team," Gerberich said. But on the boys' side, it is a different story. Harnish returns for his senior season and competed in the PIAA Class AA meet a season ago. "With Jared leading the way, and Ryan McAllister following him, we should have a pretty good 1-2 combination," Gerberich said. "We just have to get the next six a bit closer to them to fill behind those two."
Head coach: Mark Opreska
Returning girls: Charley Darkes, Kaitlin Dolan, Madisyn Breiner. Drashti Patel, jr., Shaylin Yourman, so., Erin Ditzler, fr.
Returning boys: Devin Tipton, sr., Matt Snyder, sr., Billy Fellows, sr., Klayton Adams, jr., Earl Pyles, jr., Jarrett Huber, jr., Logan Reed, jr.
Top newcomers: Alex Kudlanov, fr., Jacob Beidler, fr.
Outlook: Opreska's challenge this season is to duplicate one of the most successful seasons in school history a year ago, having to replace the trio of Eric Schulden, Nick Auchenbach and Tyler McFeaters. McFeaters qualified for the PIAA meet last season. "We believe that we will be much more competitive as a team this year, as long as we can continue to avoid injury," Opreska said. "Our girls are tough enough to run through any conditions or environment, but with any illness or injury on such a small team has a devastating effect. "The coaches are much looking forward to seeing both teams improve as their endurance and conditioning begin to better reflect their abilities and effort in our regular season workouts."
Head coach: Dave Hollen
Returning girls: Kelsei Bixler, jr., Emily Bleimeister, sr., Katie Keck, sr., Juliana Kerper, sr., Julia Plato, sr., Sarah Hollen, so.
Returning boys: Matt Brandt, sr., Jared Richard, sr., Kevin Cole, jr., Brad Blaszynski, jr., Garrett Funck, jr., Derek Wadas, so., Darius Royer, so.
Outlook: Hard to find a deeper team in the area. Hollen has 25 girls running and 28 boys. On the girls' side, Bixler finished 10th in District 3 a season ago. Hollen says that sophomores Emily Cowfer and Caroline Williams are both running well, in addition to seniors Lizzy St. Clair and freshmen Amelia Baldo and Kelsey McConaghy. On the boys' side, Brandt, Richard and Cole all ran in the PIAA meet a season ago. "We have 28 boys on the roster, many of whom might step right up with the ones already mentioned," Hollen said. "The runners themselves, because of their past success, have high expectations. They are self-motivated, very coachable and eager to compete.