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Girls’ cross country team will be competitive this year, coach says

(Sept. 6, 2013) The Stephen Decatur girls’ cross country team lost only one runner to graduation and with five veterans returning, Coach Jody Stigler said the Lady Seahawks will be competitive in 2013.

“We have more depth this year. I think we’ll be good,” Stigler said. This is Stigler’s and Lauren Leighton’s second season coaching Decatur cross country. “There are a number of girls competing for top spots.”

Senior Chloe FauntLeRoy, a two-year cross country runner, will lead the 14-athlete girls’ team “by encourage the girls to do their best and hopefully they will have good practices and do well in the meets,” she said.

“Chloe came back looking like a different runner. She’s a lot stronger this year,” Stigler said.

Also returning are seniors Alex Saunders and Alex Tushup and junior Jordan Klebe.

Senior Katie Collins and sophomore Alison Alvarado are newcomers to cross country, but they have competed on the Decatur track team.

“We’re doing really well. We’re having really hard practices that are getting us ready,” FauntLeRoy said.

Four of the boys’ team’s top seven runners last year graduated. There are 14 boys’ participating this season. Seven are veterans.

‘We have three or four boys who are clearly the top couple and there are a few competing for the last spot. We’re trying to find who will be in the fifth spot, which is an important spot,” Stigler said. The top five runners on each team earn points for their respective squads during meets. “You’re only as strong as your weakest link…We have a couple younger boys and there’s lots of room for improvement.”

Stigler will rely on veterans, junior Jake Gaddis and senior Kevin Herbert to lead the squad.

“In cross country, it’s all about leading by example,” Stigler said. “Jake and Kevin are the two strongest boys and they push themselves in practice. The other guys see how hard they’re working.”

“Cross country is my favorite season. I’m looking forward to it,” Gaddis said. “I feel that with experience I can help lead the team. I remember being a freshman and sophomore and I watched myself progress and my times get better and I feel like that will help me encourage them if they don’t have the times where they want them to be yet…We have lot underclassmen and lot of promise this year and for years to come.”

John Niedfeldt, a senior, also returns. Promising runners joining the team include sophomore Parker Harrington and freshmen Jared Massey and Cameron James.

Decatur sports teams, including cross country, have participated in the 3A East Region in the playoffs. This year, Decatur will be in the 3A South Region.

“I think this will be beneficial for us in cross country. The 3A East is the toughest in the state, especially for running sports, and it’s always hard for us to compete with them,” Stigler said. “We’ll be running against some different schools, similar types of schools to us.”

Stigler said he would like to see a Decatur runner qualify for states this year. Since Decatur moved from the 2A to 3A classification in 2007, only three have advanced to states: Lindsay Chetelat (2007 and 2008), Mitch Witherow (2008) and Lauren Buckman (2011).

Junior Jake Gaddis and senior Chloe FauntLeRoy lead the Stephen Decatur cross country team on a jog during last Thursday’s practice at the
Berlin school.

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