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La Crescent-Hokah’s cross country is getting ready for a new season.

The boys are coming off a 2018 season that saw them finish third in both Three Rivers Conference and Section 1A competition, while the girls placed third in the conference meet and eighth in the section.

Camdan Nolop was the lone Lancer to advance to state competition when he took the final individual qualifier’s spot at the sectional meet. Both teams lost one runner to graduation, but the girls team took additional hits because of runners moving away or quitting.

For the girls, Molly Franzose was the lone senior to graduate off last season’s varsity squad.

Incoming sophomore Lydia Rosendahl and senior Katy Steffes were both all-conference runners in 2018 and were the Lancers’ top two finishers in the Section 1A meet, helping the Lancers to their eighth-place finish.

Also returning from last year’s sectional team will be junior Ashley Muenzenberger, sophomore Julia Lechnir and freshman Autumn Rabe.

Lost to the Lancers will be Gracie Van Lin, who was La Crescent-Hokah’s number three finisher at conference and the fourth scorer at sectionals, who moved out of the district. Kennette Duffy, who was an alternate on last season’s sectional team, has also opted to not compete in 2019, so depth will be an issue for this season’s edition of the Lancers.

First-year runner senior Makenna Vickery, sophomore Bridget Fuchsell and freshmen Emma Stavenau, Olivia Seidel and Izzy Von Arx will get plenty of varsity experience during the season. Further hampering development of the young Lancer squad will be the fact that there are no eighth-graders and only two seventh-graders in the junior high program.

The landscape of girls cross country in both the conference and sectional meets changed dramatically with the announcement that Winona Cotter’s duo of Grace and Lauren Ping will be continuing their high school careers in Arizona.

Cotter, which would have been the odds-on favorite to be the Minnesota State Class A champions this year, will be hard pressed to replace the Pings, which opens up the door for teams such as Stewartville, Lake City, Rochester Lourdes, the home-schooled RAACHE Jaguars, and Plainview-Elgin-Millville to take a shot at the two State-qualifying berths.

Like the Lancer girls, the LC-H boys lost only Dane McCormick to graduation from last year’s team. Unlike the girls, a group of five seniors and three sophomores have a ton of varsity and state meet experience, and the Lancers should be in the competitive mix in southeast Minnesota once again this fall.

Nolop, a senior, returns after his individual state qualifying effort of one year ago but will have plenty of company in the front of the pack from senior teammates Jake Boudreau, Thomas Lechnir and Bryce Duffy.

Sophomore Cody Kowalski was all-conference as a freshman, and he and classmate Jack Redman were both on the 2018 sectional team, while senior Austin Embke was the top alternate, but none of those three competed in track and field last spring and will take some time to get back into competitive running shape.

A solid group of seven freshmen are led by Nick Wieser, Ethan Franzose, Jack Kreutzman and Sam Culver but will need some time to adjust from being junior high runners to the longer 5,000-meter varsity distance. Only one eighth-grader and one seventh-grader are on the boys team, so they’ll be forced to run as an incomplete team the entire season in junior high competition.

After winning the conference and sectional meets last year, Plainview-Elgin-Millville graduated three of their top six runners but should still be in the mix for both titles along with Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson and the Lancers.

Throw state qualifiers Lake City into the mix at the sectional level and the two state representatives from Section 1A should come from that group of four teams. LARP’s Luke O’Hare returns for his junior season as the defending Conference and Section 1A individual champ.

Coach Mark Abraham returns for his 36th season at the helm of the Lancers program, where he’s had teams advance to state 22 times.

Inducted into the Minnesota State Cross Country Coaches’ Hall of Fame this past summer along with being the 2008 State Class A Girls’ Coach of the Year and 2016 State Class A Boys Coach of the Year, Abraham will be assisted for the fifth consecutive year by former Winona Winhawk runner Erik Chapman, who is also the senior high band director for the La Crescent-Hokah school system.

Former Lancer CC Runners who will be Collegiate Runners in 2019:

Cole Fechner (2018) UM-Duluth

Matt Steiger (2018) Augustana Univ. (Sioux Falls SD).

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