Gaels keep bar set high

Another new season means more lofty goals for the St. Edmond boys and girls cross country programs.

Following a near-seamless transition back up into the Class 2A ranks last fall, Mike Szalat will be surrounded by plenty of talent once again this year.

Coming off a fifth state appearance since 2007, the Gael boys return a handful of varsity regulars to their lineup. SEHS placed fifth on the big stage at Lakeside Golf Course here in 2012.

“Our goal is the same as always, which is hopefully trying to make it to state,” Szalat said. “I thought we kind of overachieved last year to be honest, but we’re going to be a much different team this season.

“We just don’t have a stud frontrunner on either the boys or girls side that can be in the top two or three at every meet. With that being said, we might have the tightest group of front, which we’re going to need to make up for the lack of a real standout.”

Senior Casey McEvoy, juniors John Eide, Jacob Hamilton and Nate Yetmar and sophomore Harrison Mayer are the familiar names expected to anchor the Gael boys, who settled for a runner-up district showing in 2012. McEvoy, Eide and Hamilton have all competed at state the past two years, while Mayer and Yetmar each ran at Lakeside last season.

Mayer helped St. Edmond place fifth at state by narrowly edging out Center Point-Urbana’s sixth-best finisher in a tiebreaker.

“We’ve already talked about the importance of scoring, which held true at state last year when Harrison broke the tie,” said Szalat. “After losing Seth (Reel) and Colten (Lastine) from that group, we now have to replace them with a crapshoot of about five or six guys. It should be very interesting to see how our time trial goes.”

Reel, a school record-holder, 2012 North Central Conference champion and defending district gold medalist, checked in seventh at state as a senior. Reel, who is now at Winona State University, was also the first SEHS boy ever to twice finish in the Top-10 individually of the state cross country meet. He was previously 52nd in the 2A state field as a sophomore and sixth in the 1A event as a junior.

Lastine, a four-time state participant, was fourth at districts in 2012.

“I don’t think anybody feels any extra pressure, but the expectation is still there, which gives us some confidence,” Szalat said. “Our kids have a good work ethic and quietly understand what needs to be done.”

Leading the way for the Gael girls are sophomores Madi Reel and Leah Cosgrove, junior Kara Salinas and senior Jaci Brungardt. As a squad, St. Edmond last qualified for state on the girls side in 2009.

“We have about seven or eight girls vying for the top spots, but we’ve been real banged up,” said Szalat. “We have four girls that have a chance to run varsity that didn’t run at all the first week, so it’s a little slower process.

“Our older kids want to get out and go, but I need them in October instead of now. One thing we’re always shooting for is depth. We just need to get in a little better shape and increase our intensity level.”

Gone from a year ago is multi-sport star Mary Eide, who was a reliable performer throughout her SEHS career.

In addition to his Gaels, Szalat views Algona as the NCC boys favorite. Webster City and Algona appear to be the top girls contenders.

“I think the conference is improving on both the boys and girls sides,” Szalat said.

Assisting Szalat this season will be Deb Larsen.