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Libby cross country squad preps for long road ahead

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| August 27, 2009 12:00 AM

On the surface, an 89th-place finish at the Class A state cross country meet may not seem like much of an accomplishment. But for William Lott, the effort on the University of Montana course represented his best time of the season in the continuing battle to lower personal-bests.

No, the Loggers probably don’t have any state top 10 runners in the mix but that doesn’t take away from the accomplishments that each athlete chases.

“This year, we’re still building but we have a solid foundation here,” LHS cross country coach Rod Tempel said. “We want to be competitive at divisionals – that’s our goal this year. Next year, we want to be competitive at state.”

Lott returns for his senior season on a squad that does show promise for significant improvement. Junior Ben Graziano, who finished right behind Lott at state for 90th, is also back along with senior Cody Elliott and sophomores Jacob Thomas, Trevor Hogan and Zeke Carlson.

“We were just freshmen and sophomores mostly last year and this year, we’ve almost doubled the workload we’ve been doing because the kids are just a little stronger and more experienced,” Tempel said. “Next year, it’s going to be a situation where they need to perform.”

Newcomers include a pair of seniors in Chris Faulkner and Matt Nelson.

“So far, they’re running with the rest of the kids. I’m looking for good things out of those two,” Tempel said. “Neither has ever run cross country but both are strong athletes.”

Sophomores Jesse Nelson and Kyle Stern are also on the roster and the coach said they are off to a good start.

Dylan Berget and Kody Berget have both worked out with the cross country team but Tempel is not sure how often they may be available to run in meets.

Elizabeth Rodgers, junior, was the top finisher at state among the Libby girls and she represents the lone returnee.

“She’s got some ankle and knee problems right now so I’m hoping we can get her back to last year’s form here soon,” Tempel said.

Nikola Falk, a 16-year-old foreign-exchange student from Austria, is also on the roster.

“She is a superb runner, she’s done a lot of running,” Tempel said. “She’s been running workouts with the boys and I’m very impressed with her. She’s a really neat kid.”

Tempel showed concern over the number of athletes taking part in cross country this fall. The boys have 10-12 runners and the girls have just two. Even on the Libby Middle School team, only one boy and one girl are competing.

“If there is anyone that would like to run, they are still welcome to come out,” Tempel said. “I encourage any seventh- or eighth-graders to come out and run with us; I’m more than happy to have them. We just need some more numbers.”

As an extra incentive, Tempel said those who come out will get enough practices in to participate in the Sept. 12 Silverwood Coaster Meet – a junior varsity and middle school trip that includes discount admission to the theme park.

The season opens Aug. 29 with an appearance in the Bonners Ferry Invitational. The Loggers will then host the Libby Invitational on Sept. 4 at J. Neils Park. Divisionals this year is scheduled for Oct. 17 at Ronan and state will run Oct. 24 in Missoula.

Schedule

Aug. 29 at Bonners Ferry (Idaho) Invitational, 10 a.m. (PST)

Sept. 4 Libby Invitational, 1 p.m.

Sept. 12 at Kalispell Invitational, TBA

Sept. 19 at Faragut (Idaho) Invitational, TBA

Sept. 26 Mountain West at Missoula, TBA

Oct. 1 at Thompson Falls Invitational, 1 p.m.

Oct. 3 at Eureka Invitational, 2 p.m.

Oct. 10 at Whitefish Invitational, 11 a.m.

Oct. 17 Divisionals at Ronan, 1 p.m.

Oct. 24 State at Missoula, TBA