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FALL PREVIEW: Rabbits ready to take another leap forward

Photos courtesy of Photoworks Left: The 2020 Wabasso boys cross country team includes front row (L to R): Andrew Morin, Noah Pope and Kaysen Harms. Middle row (L to R): Aidan Lanoue, Noah Anderson, Aidan Kampsen and Jacob Doyle. Back row (L to R): Coach Joel Dudgeon, Joe Liebl, Alex Schmiesing, Tyler Bliss, Nicholas Irlbeck, Adryen Tietz and assistant coach Lisa Roker. Right: The 2020 Wabasso girls cross country team includes front row (L to R): Carly Fenger, Madeline Hanna, Addison Jensen, Katie Erickson and Amelia Plaetz. Middle row (L to R): Mataya Nelson, Allison Parker, Mikayla Bliss, Jocelyn Jenniges, Natasha Doubler and Jazzy Keuhn. Back row (L to R): Coach Joel Dudgeon, Annabelle Struntz, Kallie Fischer, Hailey Jensen, Meredith Haven, Lonnah Maasch, Halle Huhnerkoch, Sarah Franta and assistant coach Lisa Roker.

WABASSO — Last season, the Wabasso cross country team made some history, as then-senior Chloe Haven became the first runner in school history to qualify for the state meet. This year, the Rabbits will look to continue that trend under Wabasso coach Joel Dudgeon.

Leading the way for Wabasso on the boys side will include seniors Tyler Bliss, Nicholas Irlbeck and Alex Schmeising as well as junior Jacob Doyle.

“Tyler is a crossover from the football team and his versatility in track and field should prove to be an asset as he runs his first and final season,” Dudgeon said. “Nicholas and Alex will be captains in their final season as long time letterwinners and competitors. Nicholas will also make history in completing his first race in 2020 when he’ll become the first Rabbit to run a cross country race in six seasons as the program was reinstated in his seventh grade year.”

Adding to Wabasso’s times will be sophomores Aidan Kampsen and Adryen Tietz, freshmen Noah Anderson and Joe Liebl, eighth-graders Kaysen Harms and Noah Pope and seventh-grader Andrew Morin.

On the girls side, Wabasso will be led by seniors Sarah Franta, Madeline Hanna, Halle Huhnerkoch, Lonnah Maasch and Mataya Nelson as well as juniors Hailey Jenson and Allison Parker.

“Madeline and Lonnah are multi-time letterwinners and will provide leadership in their captain roles. Sarah was a letterwinner two seasons ago and is lacing up the shoes again this season,” Dudgeon said. “Mataya was a member of the Rabbit 4-x-800 relay teams that placed in the Section Track and Field Meet in 2017 and 2018. And Halle has wasted little time in establishing herself as a quality thinclad.”

Also contributing to their times will include sophomores Mikayla Bliss, Jocelyn Jenniges and Jasmine Kuehn along with freshmen Natasha Doubler, Addison Jenson, and Annabelle Struntz and eighth-graders Katherine Erickson, Kallie Fischer, Kylee Jenniges, Meredith Haven and Amelia Plaetz.

Dudgeon said having this much depth on their team this year will be one of their biggest strengths.

“I think in our sixth year now, this is the most depth we’ve ever had,” Dudgeon said. “Obviously we’ve had some volleyball and football players come over, so with an injury, it won’t be such a big impact like it’s been in the past if we lose one or maybe two kids.”

Dudgeon said while they don’t really have an end goal to look towards due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 on the sport, he expects his group to just continue to get better with each race and grow as a group.

“It’s really weird because in the past everything is pointed to the conference meet and while we don’t really have that one meet to point towards this year. I think we just need to get better every meet and our ultimate goal every year is we want it to be a great experience for the kids,” Dudgeon said. “When they walk away, they feel like they’ve been part of a family and have had fun and know they are vital to the program. And if we get better as a team and run faster, then that’s great.”

Going into the season, Dudgeon said he’s looking forward to watching his team enjoy the sport they love.

“To be honest, just having a season and letting these kids enjoy the sport of cross country. We enjoy being together and I think we’ve got a lot of really good competitors and it’s going to be a fun group to watch.”

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