Helias cross country looking toward end of season

Helias’ Kaitlyn Shea is back for her junior year after a pair of all-state finishes. (File photo)

Helias’ Kaitlyn Shea is back for her junior year after a pair of all-state finishes. (File photo) Photo by Kris Wilson.

When attempting to come up with a lineup for today’s opening cross country meet, Helias coach Mary Haskamp has used a pencil. With a big eraser.

Injuries and illnesses will do that.

“What we look like this week will not be our team,” Haskamp said as the Crusaders and Lady Crusaders prepared for the this morning’s Jim Marshall Invitational at Cole County Park. “What we will look like when we run next week, I don’t know if our injuries don’t heal.”

Haskamp does know one thing. When the boys and girls teams are healthy, they are both more than capable of making their marks at the Class 3 state championships in early November.

“The talent is there for us,” she said. “We just need to get our best runners out there together.”

The Lady Crusaders return six of the seven runners from a team that finished 10th at state last season.

The squad is led by Kaitlyn Shea, a junior, who earned her second all-state honor in as many tries by finishing 16th.

“Kaitlyn has picked up right where she left off,” Haskamp said.

Molly Light, a sophomore, was 34th at state as a freshman.

“She has really worked hard over the summer,” Haskamp said. “She’s already running as fast as she was at any time last season.”

Kayla Yanksey was right behind Light at Helias’ time trials and Baylee Francka, who was 82nd at state, was fourth.

“If she’s our No. 5 this year, I’d be very happy because she was our No. 3 last year and that means we’re a lot better as a team,” Haskamp said.

Kylie Frank, a freshman, currently injured, but is expected to be among their top runners.

Ali Boudreau and Amanda Patino, both seniors who ran at state last year, are battling in a group for the final two varsity spots. Others in the mix include Lanie Hentges, Kylie Mullholland, Maddie Casten, Claire Jurgensmeyer and Lizzie Stumpe. Stumpe, currently injured, was a state qualifier last season as a freshman.

“We’re going to have a battle for the No. 6 and 7 spots all year,” Haskamp said of the Lady Crusaders, who have a total of 16 girls on the team this season.

On the boys side, the Crusaders return four starters from a team that was 13th at the state championships.

But they will start at a disadvantage as two of those returners — seniors Matt Lorang (10nd) and Christian Collins (156th) — are battling injuries.

“When we get them back, we have an awesome top six guys,” Haskamp, who has 13 boys on the team, said. “We have a good group who are capable of not only staying together, but staying together with good times.”

Evan Block, a senior who was 108th at state last year, was first in Helias’ time trials. Thomas Asmar, a junior who was second in the time trials, is the other state returner (136th). Elliot Knernschield was third in the preseason race and fills out the top group.

“In every practice, in every speed workout, they are all there together,” Haskamp said. “We have a better than average pack and that should give us a good shot at getting to state.

“I like the way we look when I think about getting late into the season.”

The Crusaders and Lady Crusaders battled their way through the recent run of hot weather.

“The kids who did their summer training, the heat didn’t bother them a bit,” Haskamp said. “The ones that didn’t, you could see who did their summer training.”

But fast or slow, they fought through it.

“I’m so proud of the kids because I did not hear one complaint about the heat,” Haskamp said.

The varsity boys race is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. today, with the varsity girls going at 9:30 a.m. The junior varsity races will follow.

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