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Low numbers belie high potential for Redhawk XC

August 15, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

The 2018 North Tama cross country team had a mere five runner regularly hit the course last season as the Redhawks searched for confidence and a winning stride. By the end of the season, the Redhawks had built experience going into the 2019 season to compliment several talented newcomers on the girls side.

"Last year's team was a good crew who started off the season believing State was a possibility, but as the season went on they really started seeing it more," fifth year Coach Katey Holbach said. "They started going harder in practices. Molly [Kvidera] was always a strong leader for the girls while Jordan Rigel also stepped up."

The girls squad returns Jordan and Sabryna Rigel as senior this season, both of whom have engaged in offseason military workouts as the former has enlisted in the Marine Corps. Joining them this season is a crop of newcomers to the program in foreign exchange student Nana, sophomores Jules Breakenridge and Rachel Robinson, and freshman Grace Lidgett and Olivia Ketter. With seven girls out, North Tama will be able to score as a team this season.

Article Photos

The 2019 North Tama Cross Country team. Front kneeling from left to right: Sabryna Rigel, Grace Lidgett, Jordan Rigel and Jamie Jacobs (junior high). Back row: Logan Kennedy, Nana, Olivia Ketter, Rachel Robinson, Jules Breakenridge, Sam Snyder and Scott Lewis.

"They are ready to win some meets and come in first as a team overall," Holbach said. "Having Sam and Logan up front will be great for our underclassmen, so they have something to aim for at practices. Jordan Rigel is already starting off this year stronger with all of her military training. These girls will be in a good spot."

Breakenridge was part of the 4x800 team which competed at the State Co-ed Track Meet in May. The then-freshman found herself half a second from qualifying individually in the open 800m run, a fact that pushed her to join cross country for the first time to condition herself for next track season.

"I wanted to improve at track, so I felt cross country would be really helpful and decided to give it a try," Breakenridge said. "I really liked running distance and 800s. My times were improving through the season and I was half a second off making State in the open 800, so I want to get better by running cross country."

Holbach had coached Breakenridge for a part of the 2019 track season amid maternity leave, watching her develop into one of the program's top runners and help the North Tama girls back to the Blue Oval for the first time since 2015.

"I've done nothing to ease her into cross country," Holbach said. "We're going full-on with Jules in the same practices. We're not out running six miles a day with this first week. It's slow conditioning and she's getting into shape like everyone else is."

Breakenridge described her first week on the team as an "awakening" for her and is currently working on pacing herself. Though competing in her first season on the team, expectations are already there after her successful freshman track year.

"She believes I can break the school record by running 22 minutes and pushes me to reach that goal," Breakenridge said. "I think she's a great person to help me. If I really push myself, I can drop my times and reach my goal."

Yet the expectations do not fall squarely on Breakenridge as the only newcomer. Lidgett comes into her freshman year after a successful junior high career, having won several meets last season. Ketter also consistently placed in the top 15 in her junior high career.

"Jules and Grace are hungry to get to State in their first year," Holbach said. "Olivia Ketter has a really good chance of getting their as well."

The boys team currently consists of juniors Sam Snyder and Logan Kennedy, though Holbach hopes to recruit more runners this season. In his first year on the team last season, Snyder drew attention for several high placings and found himself two spots outside of qualifying for State last year at Districts.

"It was a real rush at that end, knowing there were two guys I needed to pass," Snyder said. "It was a matter of sprinting at the end and I'm not that good of a sprinter. That's something I need to work on this season."

Snyder and Kennedy too enjoyed successful track season this last spring, putting up points in distance events meet in and meet out for the Redhawks. Over the course of their sophomore years, the two formed a competitive bond that helped push each other to do better whether it be on the cross country cross or the track.

"Logan and I push each other," Snyder said. "He usually starts out strong and I need to catch up to him. When I get up to him, we take each guy ahead of us one at a time."

Though numbers remain low for the boys team, Holbach believes she has two potential State qualifiers in Kennedy and Snyder

"Logan was out for cross country alone his freshman year and it's hard to push yourself in practice when you're alone," Holbach said. "They both challenge each other because they want to be the best. They'll have to individually place at meets for us to have success."

And for Snyder warrants dropping his time by a "full minute" from last season, getting off to better starts and not being "boxed out" by other runners. Both boys have their sights on reaching State together after several years of the Redhawks not reaching the meet.

"The boys have to continue to push each other, even if I can't get other out with them," Holbach said. The girl's success is going to come when they place as a team overall and achieve a higher rank. Those returning will have last year's times to compare to. Grace, Jules, Rachel and Ketter will have new times. These freshman had a great junior high career and I have high expectations off the bat. Once other girls see this is a strong athletic department, we might pick up more and really strengthen the program."

The 2019 season will consist of familiar meets from last year, including two trips to Pine Lake Country Club in Eldora, Grundy Center and BGM along with competing in La Porte this season.

"We have a good schedule with at most two meets a week," Holbach said. "That will be good on their legs rather. They have breaks, but also meets spread out at a good pace. We hope to compete at BGM's high school rather than the golf course because their one 'suicide hill" is a bit too much."

The Redhawks will open their season on Thursday, Sept. 5 at Pine Lake Country Club, followed by an Invitational at La Porte Golf Course by Union on Thursday, Sept. 12.



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