Don’t ask Cedar Falls boys’ cross country coach Scott Gall if he knows which are the teams to beat in the Mississippi Valley Conference in 2019.
Gall really has no idea, and that is just fine with him.
With six of his top seven runners back from a team that took 11th at the Class 4A state meet last fall, Gall’s primary focus is the betterment of his team and not who has what back and who looks strong.
“All we try to do is get them to work hard and get them as fast as we can get them,” Gall said. “All signs that I’ve seen, it looks like we are going to have an outstanding year.”
Eli Smith, who took 50th as an individual, is the Tigers’ top returner, while Brayden Burnett, Michael Goodenbour, Alex Mujica and Ethan Kober also return from the state-qualifying team. A sixth returner, Hollis Wilson, suffered an offseason training injury and most likely will miss his senior season.
Still, even with the loss of Wilson, Cedar Falls returns 14 other letterwinners.
Gall says he had a young team in 2018. It’s still young heading into the Tigers’ first meet Saturday at Cedar Rapids Prairie.
Gall’s returning letterwinners include five seniors, eight juniors and two sophomores.
“We are still going to be super young,” Gall said. “But we had a good summer. They worked really hard. We had a group of 25-30 that went on summer runs and some others on their own. The summer was pretty productive for everybody. We had more guys run more miles than we’ve had the last couple of years.”
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Still, even with a good summer of training, Gall believes it will take this new group two or three meets to really get their wheels going.
Gall adds that the big key for the team to make a jump is being tough.
“I always tell the guys to be tough,” he said. “If you feel you went out light, get tough over the last part. If you feel you went out too fast, get tough and hang on. We talk about looking in the mirror and if at the end of the race you can look in the mirror and say I ran tough ... that is the goal for all of our guys.”
On the girls’ side at Cedar Falls, two state placers return with sophomore Paige Wageman (77th) and senior Mackenzie Michael (85th) back.
Waterloo Columbus sophomore Adrianna Gallen took 63rd in Class 2A. Gallen is among three returning letterwinners for the Sailor girls, along with Taylor Heuthorst and Alissa Sinnwell.
“Taylor will give us the senior support we need, and Adrianna returns from a state-qualifying performance. Alissa worked hard this summer and gives the team a great example of how much you can improve with doing extras,” Sailors head coach Ron Roberson said.
Columbus has 12 new team members on the boys’ side, with two returning letterwinners — Jordan Tovar and Justin Hoffman.
For the combined Waterloo East/West team, Andrew Congdon is the top returning boys’ runner, while Madison Tieskotter and Victoria Knight lead the girls’ squad.