Experience, depth key factors for Norwin cross country
Norwin cross country coach Brian Fleckenstein knows how valuable experience can be for runners.
It can help coaches, too, and Fleckenstein already is putting some of what he learned last year to use this summer.
“I think I messed up last year and assumed (everyone) would run a lot more in July,” said Fleckenstein, entering his second season as Norwin's coach. “This year we had our camp in July, and we've been running since then. We've been meeting weekly, and (last week we began) meeting twice a week. I think training-wise, we're in much better shape than we were coming into last season.”
The Knights will head into the regular season later this month with an experienced group of runners. Seven letterwinners return from the girls team, which finished 6-2 in Section 1-AAA competition a season ago, and six return from the boys team, which finished 7-1.
Fleckenstein believes that experience will only help the teams this season.
“We lost our No. 1 boy and our No. 1 girl (from) last year, but I think as a whole, depth-wise, both the boys and the girls will be strong,” he said. “We have much more depth this year and experience. A lot of people, but the boys especially, it was their first year running cross country (last year). It's one of those sports that takes a while to figure out.”
Returning letterwinners on the boys team include seniors Andrew Bradley, Clay Brough and Charles Huss; juniors Logan Dunn and Trey Quealy; and sophomore Tyler Laughery. Brandan Moretton, who posted a 37th-place finish at the WPIAL Class AAA Track and Field Championships last year, graduated.
On the girls side, returning letterwinners include seniors Lindsey Dawson, Steph Hutchinson and Becca Peters; juniors Camryn Grudowski, Julia Rosso and Becca Rohac; and sophomore Hannah Rusinko. Abby Pristas graduated after finishing 61st at the WPIAL race last year, but Rusinko and Grudowski also notched top-100 finishes.
The returners from last year will be joined by a strong crop of newcomers that includes senior Grant Folgate on the boys team and junior Rachel Fasiczka and freshmen Kelley Giles, Maria Josselyn and Leah Vorce on the girls team. Fleckenstein also hoped to see strong performances from a solid freshman boys class.
“Sometimes when a newcomer comes in, it can be kind of intimidating,” Fleckenstein said. “But I think everybody's welcomed everybody.”
The cross country teams will begin their season Aug. 31 at the Gateway Invitational at Boyce Park.
While not a single Norwin runner competed at the PIAA Championships last season, Fleckenstein believes several Norwin runners have a chance to do so this season.
The extra runs from July and August, which Fleckenstein said were well-attended by members of both the boys and girls teams, only will help.
“I used to coach basketball, too, and I always felt like a hypocrite because I'd say how important practice was, but it didn't always translate that the kid who practices hardest does the best,” Fleckenstein said. “But it's definitely true (in running).
“ ... Last year, Brandan Moretton really put in a lot of mileage over the summer, and then he obviously was the best runner. I think the same is true this year — I know for sure the girl and the boy who put in the top mileage are panning out right now as the No. 1 runners for both (teams). There's a direct correlation for running.”