Girls cross country preview: Rochester teams look to improve, build during unique season

Century appears to be the top returning girls cross country team among the city's three public schools. The Panthers placed fourth in both the Big Nine and Section 1AA meets a year ago. Here's a preview of all of Rochester's girls teams for the 2020 season.

Kennedy Speer girls c.c.
Kennedy Speer is Century's top returning runner in girls cross country. She placed seventh in last year's Big Nine Conference meet. (Joe Ahlquist /


Co-coaches: Joey Keillor and Brent McGrew.

Last season: The Panthers finished fourth in the 12-team Big Nine Conference meet and fourth in the 17-team Section 1AA meet.

Top returners: Kennedy Speer (seventh at Big Nine meet, 32nd Section 1AA), Morgan Morey (18th at Big Nine, 31st Section 1AA), Gracie Shannon (39th Section 1AA), Ryaan Speer, Megan Gamble.

Top newcomer: Senior Caitlin McWilliams has had a successful track career at Century, but until now has played soccer in the fall.

Outlook: After placing fourth in both the Big Nine and section meet a year ago, the veteran Century team added extra training this summer. The Panthers started running more miles and running them faster in a effort to improve this season. "I feel we are poised to make the transition from being good but fragile, to really good and unflappable," co-coach Joey Keillor said. "We may not have a clear front runner, but a very solid top 10 is tough to beat. And our talent and development pipeline is wide open." The Panthers' goal is to win the Big Nine meet and earn a state berth.


Coach's quote: "With record summer running participation and mileage, we looking to mold a group of good of runners into a strong, deep team where the entire group is a level or two better, not just a few individuals," Keillor said. "We are eager for the old-school dual/triangular season this year. Each race will have a sense of urgency since every race counts toward our final ranking."



Seniors: Gracie Shannon, Sadhika Bandi, Parmita Das, Lily Harvey, Reema Mohamed, Juniors: Kennedy Speer, Alison Austin, Mya Benike, Amaliya Benjamin, Abbey Flodstrom, Ellie Flodstrom, Jordan Hunter, Lilly Keillor, Melissa Magruder, Teagan Nelson. Sophomores: Lauren Buchan, Arya Jacobson, Ava Mosman. Freshmen: Morgan Morey, Stephanie Bannon, Isabella Govrik, Carrie Guenther, Lillian Potter, Ethnie Vogl. Eighth-graders: Ryaan Speer, Megan Gamble, Ava Austin, Aubrey Beadling, Alexa Bormann, Olive Erickson, Megan Gamble, Jazzlyn Hanenberger, Vivian Hatlevig.


Seniors: Caitlin McWilliams, Teijah Wooley. Sophomore: Grace Oyen. Freshmen: Ashley Calvert, Maya Niichel, Anna Pankratz, Ryley Randolph, Maren Unterholzner. Eighth-graders: Sophia Comfere, Sophia Trabuco. Seventh-graders: Avery Benike, Mayukha Das, Julia Jack, Ruby Novak, Madison Ohm, Clara Rock, Alexa Van Straaten, Emma Wu.


Coach: Dakota Hiller (1st season, former head men's and women's cross country coach at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich.)..

Last season: The Rockets finished 11th in the Big Nine Conference meet and 15th in the Section 1AA meet.


Top returners: Greta Freed (21st at Big Nine meet, 41st at Section 1AA), Caitlin Graves (58th Big Nine, 64th Section 1AA), .

Top newcomer: Kate Powell.

Outlook: First-year coach Dakota Hiller is trying to boost the team's confidence as the Rockets try to grow and improve on last year's Big Nine finish. "My goal over these next few years is to get our team out of the bottom half of the conference," Hiller said. The coach is counting on the seniors to provide leadership and to have the underclassmen grow into that role in the future. Hiller expects both Greta Freed and Caitlin Graves to have strong finishes at the Big Nine meet.

Coach's quote: "Keep showing up in every way you can and give it 100 percent every time because you don't know if it will be your last time racing," Dakota Hiller said. "We have to work with what we got and stay positive because it is a blessing we are still able to race this season."



Seniors: Greta Freed, Caitlin Graves, Sophia Marschall, Suheyla Sheikhibrahim, Ellie Willman, Olivia Hoezle. Juniors: Samantha Padrnos, Maddie Thompson, Olivia Gorden, Brea Schad. Sophomores: Ava Fevold, Paige Oenning, Halle Squires, Sydney Kuester, Taylor Adams, Annika Kjer, Sophie Gilbertson, Ellie Burns, Kiera Roth, Xan Frei. Freshmen: Eliana Anderson, Kiera Derr, Anna Willman. Eighth-graders: Olivia Cox, Lizzie Chadwick.



Seniors: Alyssa Kang. Seventh-graders: Kate Powell, Eliana Bryan, Iris Anderson.


Coach: Brett Carroll.

Last season: The Spartans finished ninth in the Big Nine Conference meet and 11th in the Section 1AA meet.

Top returners: Arely Jaime-Luevano (12th at Big Nine meet), Hannah LaMaster, Hadley Jensen, Elizabeth Wiederholt, Abigail Rowekamp, Katarina Larsen, Tierra Ruggeberg.

Top newcomers: Laura Behnke, Lillian Mills, Linden Loos.

Outlook: The Spartans will be looking to improve on last year's Big Nine Conference and Section 1AA finishes as they have a veteran core back. Mayo has its top six runners back from a year ago and seven of its top eight. Arely Jaime-Luevano had a top time of 19:54.9 a year ago while Hannah LaMaster (20:28.8) and Hadley Jensen (20:48.9) both had best runs of under 21 minutes.

Coach's quote: "The solid core of five, Arely Jamie-Luevano, Abigail Rowekamp, Hadley Jensen, Hannah LaMaster and Elizabeth Wiederholt look to lead the way this year," Brett Carroll said. "It will be fun to see the season progress as the next three top runners as of now are all first-year runners (Laura Behnke, Lillian Mills and Linden Loos)."




Seniors: Arely Jamie-Luevano, Abigail Rowekamp, Tierra Ruggeberg, Alicia Fogarty. Juniors: Hadley Jensen, Hannah LaMaster, Elizabeth Wiederholt, Anna Elijah, Cecilia Kuzniewski, Emily Mikhail, Alivia Sansale, Maika Suzuki, Gabrielle Willaert. Sophomores: Caitlyn Lake, Elise Nagele, Maria Rangel. Freshmen: Haliey Aakre, Cecelia Backus, Gracie Burt, Estrealla Cardenas, Olivia Chapman, McKayla Fogarty, Sophie Groves, Sylvie McBride-Bergum, Lawrene Meilander, Lucia Willaert. Eighth-grader: Katarina Larsen, Evelyn Timimi.


Junior: Hibaq Sharif. Sophomores: Natalie Drake, Ivy Maples, Lily Willkomm. Freshman: Nyla Grantham, Natalie Hurt, Linden Loos, Annmarie Palmer, Elle Roth. Eighth-grader: Lillian Mils. Seventh-graders: Laura Behnke, Flora Bolster, Harper Doe, Mercy Elijah, Lauryn Fort, Kendra Horsman, Samantha LeBrasseur, Vivian Wall.


Coach: Pete Gilman (3rd year).

Last season: The Eagles placed third at the Hiawatha Valley League meet and fifth at the Section 1A meet.

Top returners: Marissa Houfek, Liberty Leis, Jayla Ryan, Mariah Brooks, Anna Piekert.

Top newcomers: Abby Lindeen, Greta Dieck.


Outlook: The Eagles have some huge holes to fill with the graduation of top runners Lauryn Renier and Meg Degen from last year's team. The team did have a good summer training and coach Pete Gilman said "the hope is that we will be prepared once we start on Sept. 3 at Stewartville." The Eagles' overall participation numbers are way down this year and they will count on all their runners in every race this season.

Coach’s quote: "This will be a very different season in many ways," Pete Gilman said. "The kids have adapted well to the changes and we look forward to completing the season as safe as possible."



Seniors: Marissa Houfek, Liberty Leis, Jayla Ryan. Freshman: Mariah Brooks. Eighth-grader: Anna Piekert.


Sophomore: Greta Dieck. Eighth-grader: Abby Lindeen.


Head coach: Lindsay Johnson (second year).


Last season: No team finishes because of an incomplete roster.

Top returners: Winona Morgan (freshman), Claire Allen (eighth-grader).

Top newcomers: Blythe Morgan (seventh-grader).

Outlook: The Lions have a very limited roster and are still trying to add runners. If they do not end up having enough runners for a team score again this year, they will focus on getting the individuals to do as well as possible.

Coach's quote: "This season will be a great chance to chase after individual goals," Lindsay Johnson said. "It will be the perfect environment to build confidence in the 5K as young runners and be even more fruitful in the seasons to come."



Freshman: Winona Morgan. Eighth-grader: Claire Allen.


Seventh-grade: Blythe Morgan.


Head coach: Wayne Dickie.

Last season: Placed sixth out of 19 teams at the Section 1A meet.

Top returners: Belle Alderman, Sarah Baum.

Outlook: Five of the team's top seven runners return from a year ago, including captains Anna Carlson, a senior, and junior Sarah Klein. With some solid depth and a strong middle school program over the past few years, the Jaguars look to improve on last year's sixth-place finish at the Section 1A meet, with Lake City, Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Winona Cotter as the teams to beat.

Coach's quote: "I think we will be fairly deep as a team with some underclassmen challenging for those top seven spots," Wayne Dickie said. "The strong junior high program over the last few years is moving up so there will be some very good competition within the team."


Seniors: Anna Carlson, Clara Gay, Lydia Jones. Juniors: Natania Cole, Rosie Hicks, Natalie Hoffman, Sarah Klein, Elle Master, Serenity McCullar, Anna Osterlund, Rachel Perry. Sophomores: Isabelle Alderman, Sarah Baum, Heather Haselius, Estella Reynolds, Jada Rounds. Freshmen: Nora Friess, Kaylee Hagstrom, Ava Robertson, Norah Young. Eighth-graders: Charlotte Florek, Nessa Friess, Julia Goetz, Adella Schmoll. Seventh-graders: Elena Bartelt, Heidi Haselius, Rachel Klein, Adra McLemore, Hannah Potter, Fiona Robertson.

Guy N. Limbeck is a Rochester native who has been working at a daily newspaper since 1981. He has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Guy at 507-285-7724 or
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