UNC cross-country teams looking to move up in section standings, compete for state berths
Steve Schreiber continues to build the United North Central boys and girls cross-country program.
The Warriors will return veteran teams as the boys have five runners back while the girls return six runners who competed at last year’s Section 8A meet.
“I am so ready for this season,” said Schreiber, who has seen the numbers in the program grow from 12 to almost 50 this year. “We’ve been building this thing for four years now and we are coming off a very successful season. The expectations we have are the same that we’ve always had. We expect our athletes to come with a positive work ethic every day in practice, to carry each other throughout the ups and downs of a season, and to improve throughout the fall. As long as those expectations are met, we will have another successful season.”
Girls look to build on success
Having a strong nucleus returning has Schreiber counting on the girls to build on last year’s success.
The Warriors won the conference title and finished sixth at the Section 8A meet with 163 points. Returning from that team are seniors Sarah Kuismi and Andrea Korvela; junior Jennifer Stifter; sophomore Anna Olson; freshman Erin Olson; and eighth grader Annika Aho.
Anna Olson was the Warriors’ top finisher at the section meet by placing 21st overall. Following were Stifter (42nd), Erin Olson (43rd), Aho (44th), Kuismi (49th) and Korvela (56th).
UNC has to replace last year’s senior duo of Joy Haataja (who was the team’s No. 2 finisher at the section meet by placing 27th) and Jill Isaacson.
Looking to fill those spots are seniors Shania Knapp and Shelby Pihlaja; freshmen Elise Keranen, Kaylee Eckman and Maria Isaacson; eighth graders Alyssa Peterson, Cierra Ahlf and Megan Hendrickson; and seventh grader Deven Haverninen.
“On the girls side, we return a lot of talent. Andrea, Jennifer and Sarah will be looked to for leadership for our strong young group of runners. Alyssa and Anna are healthy after fighting through injuries at the end of last season,” said Schreiber. “We saw some of the best times we’ve had on the girls side in a very long time. Both Joy and Jill will be missed, but we have the girls to step up and fill their shoes.”
Boys look to move up in section
Schreiber is also expecting an improved season from the boys team.
Leading the Warriors this season will be the five returning runners from last year’s section team that placed ninth with 257 points. That group features seniors Ryan Spadgenske and Sterling Crabb; junior Joseph Keranen; sophomore Luke Wurdock; and eighth grader Lars Keranen.
Wurdock was the Warriors’ No. 1 runner at the section meet by placing 43rd and was followed by Joseph Keranen (47th), Spadgenske (64th), Crabb (73rd) and Lars Keranen (74th).
The Warriors have two runners to replace in Ryan Johnson and Don Wurdock. Johnson was the team’s No. 2 runner at the section meet by placing 44th while Don Wurdock finished 72nd as UNC’s No. 5 runner.
Looking to replace those two runners will be seniors Calvin Taylor and Cameron Ziegler; sophomore Kaeden Berg; freshmen Anthony Wurdock and Steven Koons; eighth graders Blake Schoon and Brett Pinoniemi; and seventh grader Wade Berttunen.
“We return six varsity runners along with a bunch of young runners that will start coming into their own this year,” said Schreiber. “Our junior high boys team reminds me very much of the junior high girls team we had four years ago that are now conference champions. We will move slowly with those young boys, but by the end of the year I’m expecting a nice group of young boys competing with our older boys to fill a growing varsity team.”