With five returning varsity runners, all set to benefit from that year of varsity experience, and most from a good summer of running, Coach Dave Wik is hopeful that the Magic boys’ cross country team can make some strides in 2017.
Monticello is coming off a season where youth and inexperience placed them in the lower tier of the conference and section standings, and they have aspirations to climb into the upper echelon this fall.
“We got those guys back, so we should be improved from there,” said Wik. “But we still need to develop some firepower at the top.”
Last season, Monti placed all seven runners within 70 seconds and 35 places of each other at the 16-team Section 8AA meet. But the top runner placed 60th, preventing Monti’s solid packing from helping it climb up the leader board.
One of Monti’s top runners figures to be Marcus LaVallee. The senior has been one of Monti’s best runners for the last couple of years, but is still working back to full strength after some late spring, early summer injuries set his training back a bit.
“He’ll come around,” said Wik.
Also returning will be ninth-grader Riley Derby, one of the team’s strongest runners as just an eighth-grader last season. Logan Wright will be back for his senior year, while Alec Smieja and Zach Revenig both return for their junior seasons.
“They all look good,” said Wik.
The coach added that all five are relatively similar in speed in time right now and he’s hopeful they’ll use that to push each other while staying together.
“I think they need to rely on each other, and really look at a team pack,” he said. “We need a group of four to five, not groups of twos.”
Wik also said Monti has some young kids that will likely factor into the mix as the season goes on.
One of those appears to be Marcus Guertin. The eighth-grader ran Monti’s third best time at the Champlin Park time trials last weekend, finishing the two-mile race with a time of 11:25, coming in behind only LaVallee and Wright. Freshman Paul Guertin (11:41) and sophomore Eli Schaffer (11:56) also ran top-seven times for Monti during the trial.
Wik is hopeful that the combination of more experience and influx of young talent will help Monti make a noticeable jump this season.
“I think we just want to be more solid as a group,” said Wik. “I’d definitely like to see us get in that top-five [in the Mississippi 8].”
Monti’s first race is scheduled for the morning of this Friday, Sept. 1 at Maple Lake. The second event on the calendar is the Monticello Invite, which will be held at the popular Bertram Regional Park course on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 10 a.m.
Wik said the program is excited about the event moving from a Thursday to a Saturday.
“It always seemed rushed,” he said, about having a 4 p.m. event during the first week of school. “Hopefully this will be a little more relaxed [for coaches and student-athletes].”
Monticello will also host the end-of-the-year Mississippi 8 Meet at Bertram Regional Park this year. That meet is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 17.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]