In cross country, boys still trying to keep up with the Jones
Stars and Stripes September 5, 2023
Powerhouse Stuttgart could be vulnerable during this DODEA European cross country season.
The Stuttgart Panther boys have won the last two Division I championships since the pandemic year of 2020. But if they want to continue that streak, the Panthers must do so with a bunch of new faces.
Just one Stuttgart runner returns from the 2022 championship team. So the boys team competition, in particular, may be up for grabs.
The individual race would appeaar to have more clarity. The top two finishers in Wiesbaden’s Luke Jones and Vilseck’s Jackson Cochran are back and likely will lead the pack once again.
For the girls, Stuttgart lost its individual champion in Vanessa Alder, but five of its top eight will represent the Panthers again.
Whether that leads to yet another title for the Panthers will be decided at the European championships Oct. 21 in Baumholder.
Here’s a team-by-team look for the 2023 season, based on coaches’ responses:
The boys team is setting its sights on European qualification thanks to the return of three runners – senior Eli Schroeder, junior Alan Smith and sophomore Ben Wilson.
New to the high school squad are freshman Nate Wilson and sophomore Will Lequigan.
The Lions have just four returners, but coach Leah Johnson isn’t tempering her expectations. She said she expects some boys to qualify for championships in the first meet of the season, while the girls should do the same by the third meet.
For the boys, the Lions will bank on team captain Spencer Johnson. Also bringing experience is Benjamin Gallei.
For the girls, Sara Nix enters 2023 as a team captain. Hadley Keeton also returns.
Newcomers include Daina Pasvenskait, Emma Just, L.J. Romar, Collin Higgins and Philipp Bergmann.
The Cougars have three European qualifiers returning, which has coach Mark Wavra believing his boys squad could make it as a team.
Senior Kenton Duplessie, who took part in the Steens Mountain High Altitude Running Camp in Burns, Oregon, over the summer, is Ansbach’s top returner after taking 43rd place at the European meet. Also back are sophomore Greyson Strabala and junior David Serna, who finished within 0.03 seconds of each other at Baumholder last fall in 56th and 57th places, respectively.
New to the team this year are senior Bryson Clark, sophomore Brendon Torres and freshmen Elijah Bell and Cienna Johnson.
Unlike their counterparts in Europe, rarely do the Falcons get a chance to stretch their wings when training. Normally, they run the hallways of their air-conditioned school in the early morning hours to escape the triple-digit heat outside.
Despite this challenge, Bahrain will look to make noise with its small squad.
Returning this year are Jose Paulo Torres Sarmiento, Maddox Ryan and Maddie Armes. New to the team are freshmen Noah Harmon and Kenji Clyde, as well as transfer Ryan Hulitt.
The Buccaneers don’t have high numbers for their high school teams, but they do bring back junior Ashlyn Brech and sophomore Jason Danso.
Newcomers include sophomore Wryson Catalan and freshmen Gabriel Dubay and Kipuha Fejeran.
Black Forest Academy
The Falcons anticipate being toward the top of the Division II boys standings once again this season after taking runners-up honors in 2022.
Three runners – seniors Cooper Swain and Hezekiah Woodard and sophomore Luke Hartman – come back from that squad. Swain finished 27th, Hartman crossed in 52nd and Woodard came in 54th last fall.
Back for the girls team that took third in 2022 are junior Liberty Cook and seniors Jade Hernandez and Joy Kang. Cook was 40th, Hernandez took 53rd and Kang came in 57th.
The Brigands will look to defend their Division III championships for both the boys and girls with mostly new teams.
Brussels will turn to its top returners – senior Cade Wedekind for the boys and sophomore Haley Mitchell for the girls – to lead the way. Wedekind crossed the line in 24th place individually at last year’s European meet, while Mitchell took 25th.
A pair of freshmen, Josh Isaacson and Ethan Slack, join the boys team. Junior Kate Baird, a transfer from Virginia, and freshman Amaia Sharrock are newcomers on the girls side.
Frankfurt International School
Frankfurt brings back three runners from 2022 in seniors Seth Leishman (26th at Euros) and Laszlo Lawless (85th) and sophomore Max Weinacht (46th).
Newcomers include Michael Magestro, Ailin Weber, Jakob Glanz, Karl Rasmus Byskov, Vivaan Kartik, Santiago Gantmacher and Rowan Newman.
The Tigers are trying to bring the cross country program back to prominence. They’ll have to do so with a new squad.
Hohenfels brings back just one runner from last year: Jalissa Jobity. The junior took 12th place individually at last year’s European meet.
Running with her this fall will be Jalissa’s twin, Malea. Anastasia Felix and Kyla Smith also are joining the girls team.
For the boys, junior Ben Hastings will lead the way with teammates Lucas Buford, Haylen McClannahan, Joaquin Felix and Emmitt Stewart.
The Raiders are strong in numbers but lack experience, having graduated a large group of seniors who helped the boys finish fourth and the girls in third in 2022.
Last year’s No. 2s for the boys and girls are returning in juniors Jacob Porter and Samantha Ramsey. Porter took 12th place individually in Baumholder, while Ramsey crossed the line in 13th.
Senior Katharina Storch also brings experience.
Coach Amy Mathews-Soto said more than 60 athletes are competing for spots.
Coach Francis Noonan expects both teams to be improved after coming in fourth and second, respectively, in Division II last fall.
The Wildcats bring back five runners who competed at the European meet. Noah Lindee took 40th place, Parker Dastrup 77th and Elias Baggett 87th in the boys race, while Emma Fischer crossed in 43rd and Abigail Benson was 71st in the girls race.
A pair of transfers should make an impact. Sophomore Hudson Selph moved from Nebraska this summer, and senior Emma Washburn will lead the girls after also flying in from the States.
The Royals will try to rebuild after losing many top runners to graduation and PCS, but the good news is they have the depth to do so.
Bringing back experience are brothers Spencer and Preston Jackson, Tyler Jones, Ben Heath and Eri Smith. The girls team will look to Mya Loringer, Natalie Lords, Sydni Iltis and April Thomas.
Joining this year are brother-sister duo Frankie and Idaly Lozano, Cash Carter, Kyle Mattes, Audrey Singer, Anna Gonzales, Bralyn Jones and Mckenna Smith.
The Jaguars return to courses this fall with young squads after losing 90 percent of their teams.
The lone returner is Bradley Torres. Senior Rhys Martinsen comes back to the squad after running for Sigonella as a freshman and is expected to be one of the top runners for the boys.
Freshman Izzy Lyon will be the No. 1 girl runner, while fellow freshman Levi Denton will compete with Martinsen for the top boys spot.
The Sentinels are back on cross country courses after not having a team last year.
The runners are all new to the sport, but coach Jillian Besemer say they show promise.
Sophomores Shaun Addams and Azzan Alexander and freshmen James Idems, William Crofton and Logan Silar will make up the boys team.
The girls team returns five of its top eight runners from last year’s European title winners. The problem is the top three are gone.
Regan Stewart was injured and missed out on the European meet, while junior Sophie Templeton placed seventh in Baumholder. Sophomores Lilian Austin and Isla Balderson came in 20th and 30th places, respectively, while junior Mackenzie Welsh crossed the line in 45th.
The lone boy veteran is senior Nathan Johnston, who took 18th.
The Panthers will turn to 11 freshmen, 23 sophomores and a few transfers to defend their team titles.
Last year’s runner-up Cochran will lead a rebuilding squad that will look for its young runners to catch up quickly.
Jones enters his junior year as the favorite to defend his individual crown, having swept to numerous long-distance titles in cross country and track and field during his sophomore campaign. That included the mile and two-mile double during the spring.
Coming back on the boys team with him are seniors Jax Watson and Rhys Thayer, who came in 14th and 17th places at the European meet.
For the girls, sophomore Annastasia Berghammer (eighth), senior Jade Saunders (10th) and juniors Bryce Watts (15th) and Natalia Bergdorf (23rd) made up four of the Division I European runner-up team.
Sophomore twins Katie and Angelica Shea should replace the girls who graduated, according to coach Stephanie Escalante.