The Wartburg men’s and women’s cross country teams are going into their second year under head coach Ryan Chapman and after a pair of second place finishes in the conference meet last year, this year’s team is hungry for more.
Both of the teams graduated several very strong runners a year ago, but plenty of talent remains for the Knights. One of these returners is senior Eli Kaczinski who was a national qualifier last year for the Wartburg Outdoor Track & Field team. Chapman said Kaczinski has greatly benefited from the national experience he gained with the track team.
“He’s a different runner this year,” Chapman said. “Confidence wise, there’s nothing stopping him now.”
Chapman also said Kaczinski and other seniors will be looked to for a lot of leadership this year.
Leading the way for the women’s team will be returning All-American, senior Ashlyn Baage. Last year, Baage was an All-American in cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field. She made the decision to return for one more year at Wartburg in order to compete with the Knights, much to the delight of her coaches.
She joins a strong returning group that includes fellow seniors Beth Mallon and Meghan Silbernagel, as well as juniors Shae McEnany and Nicole Breitbach.
With so much talent returning for both teams, Chapman said one they team will have to make sure they stay true to the team’s culture.
“This is important, when they put on the uniform they aren’t just running for themselves, but they’re running for all those other great runners,” Chapman said.
One returner on the men’s side who will be very popular this year is Karl Jaeschke, who will also be serving as the 2017-18 Wartburg Student Body President. Chapman said having Jaeschke as student body president may end up being a very fun thing for the team.
“Our cross country runners get first crack at the president, they might know when Outfly is,” Chapman said.
Having fun this year could be just what the needs as it enters the season looking to make some noise at the national level.
The season begins for both teams on Sep. 1 as they travel to Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota. The men will compete at 9 am while the women will run at 9:30 am.