With five runners returning from its Section 8AA team the Brainerd Warriors boys' cross country team is expecting to stride into contention this season.
Seniors Brady Rutman, Chad Anderson and Louis Bedard are back along with juniors Evan Tougas and Cory Olson. Brandon Towne, another junior who did not run in the section meet, also returns.
"We're looking for big things this year from our guys," Warriors coach Dave Herath said. "They got together quite a bit this summer and did some running, which was helpful.
"We have a large senior class. They have shown their leadership. They have done a nice job of doing organizational things over the summer to get prepared.
"The downside is we will be real good in a real strong section for guys, with Little Falls, Moorhead and Alexandria. I think we will be a surprise. We could move up quite a bit this year. We will know more after the first meet (Thursday at Northland Arboretum)."
Rutman was 70th in the section but appeared on his way to a state qualifying berth when he hit the wall.
"Brady was our leader all last season," Herath said. "In the section meet he had a great first 2.8 miles. The last 200 meters he almost collapsed and virtually had to drag himself across the finish line.
"He struggled early on in the track season. They did some blood work on him and found out he has a low iron count. He has come back in phenomenal shape. He will be our leader again. He has done a lot over the summer to prepare for his senior season."
Bedard was 22nd in the section, Anderson 40th, Olson 47th and Tougas 71st.
"We don't have a Kori Kuhn or an Aron Stumvoll but we are probably as deep as we have ever been," Herath said. "It will be interesting to see how that pans out. We should be a real solid team of 1-7 runners."
From 1993-99, Kuhn and Stumvoll made a combined six state meet appearances, with Kuhn finishing seventh in 1995.
Additional varsity boys candidates:
Seniors -- Tom Barthel, Josh Schirmer, Dustin Matson, Brent Levig, Brian Losos, Chris Endreson.
Juniors -- Matt Schmitz, Cass Casper, Matt DesMarais, Jake Jorgenson.
Sophomores -- Derrek Matson, Jeff Sands, Justin Grunewald, Ryan Heilman, Scott Lykins.
Freshmen -- Chris Woodard, Mike Henschke, Ty Hunt.
"Our entire senior group, even those who were not on the varsity last year, have come in in very good shape and ready to go," Herath said. "Louis Bedard in particular has done a lot. Corey Olson is also in that top group, Evan Tougas as well.
"You can add Justin Grunewald in there. It will take him a while to run 5 kilometers as opposed to two miles. He will be a darkhorse that people don't know about."
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