Cross country preview: New faces mark Raiders' team in 2010
New faces are the norm this fall for Hastings cross country coach John Dewall.
The longtime Hastings coach saw the graduation last summer of many decorated runners for both the girls and the boys, leaving him looking high and low this fall for enough athletes to field competitive teams for the boys and the girls.
The good news? He's found some runners.
The boys and the girls are not deep, but berths in the state meet are certainly possible for at least a few boys and girls.
"We have a lot of new kids this fall," Dewall said. "It is a completely rebuilding kind of team."
Captains for the boys are Chase Keilers and D.J. Yandrasits. Both are experienced runners who were big parts of last year's team.
"Chase, he's a tough athlete, and was one of our lead runners last year with Michael (Rough)," Dewall said. "He had a great season. He's a strong, dedicated kid. We're looking for a lot of good things from him. He could be a real tough one for us."
Last season, Keilers placed 47th at the section meet in 18 minutes and 31 seconds.
Yandrasits trained a lot in the off-season, too, Dewall said.
"He worked out hard," he said. "He has shown a lot of leadership here in the beginning of the year. We selected him as one of our captains because of that. He adds some excitement to the team. We're looking for him to keep showing some of that leadership and to help us score some key points."
Riley Tarrant returns with experience.
"He's a good kid," Dewall said. "He could definitely be tough."
Colby Smith is a freshman who could have a very good season, Dewall said.
"He's the best ninth-grader I've seen in 10 years here," Dewall said. "He's tough. I mean, he is really tough. It was a real nice surprise."
Zack Benning, another freshman, is out right now with a toe issue but will return soon, Dewall said.
Dewall is hoping the Raiders can place in the middle of the conference.
"That would be realistic," Dewall said. "The same thing for sections. Our goals are really to help each runner develop to the best of their ability. If every runner can develo and we can bring those kids along so they have their best performances at the end of the year, that's all we can ask.
"We want the runners to stay focused and, when it comes to the end, have their best races."
Dewall expects Stillwater, Forest Lake and Mounds View to have strong teams in the Suburban East Conference.
The lone captain for the Hastings girls is Bri Strandberg. She was one of the team's leading runners last season and just missed a chance to run at the state meet. She is a sophomore.
"She was just inches away from going to the state meet last year," Dewall said. "Definitely the goal is to get her to the state meet. She has the talent. She worked hard this summer. She's a year older and has the experience. That's a big factor. She's been there. She's placed high.
"We're looking for a lot of leadership from Bri. We'll need to bring the younger kids with her."
This year's team is very young and rather small with about a dozen runners.
"We don't have a lot of high school girls," Dewall said. "We are bringing up a number of middle school girls to fill out the roster, but there's a lot of good talent in some of those kids in the middle school."
Roseville and Stillwater will be among the leaders in the Suburban East Conference.
"We're really looking for our younger kids that we have on the team - we want to help them along and help them improve," Dewall said. We want to give them some race experience and help them improve, week by week."