CLINTON – With 50 kids on the cross country team this season, head coach Kellen Schneeberger has no lack of athletes to choose for his varsity rosters.
The cool thing is that the River Kings and Queens are both returning a number of runners who not only have seen varsity time before, but have seen success.
There are six returning letterwinners on the boys’ side and nine from the ladies. Conner Sattler, Ethan Buer, Craig and Riley Mercado, Luke Jennings and Owen Sander-Welzien all come back for the Kings.
“This group has been around and working together for several years and we are hoping this is the year that they break through and do the things we know they are capable of,” Schneeberger said. “They have great attitudes and work hard, but we haven’t put it all together collectively, consistently. If we do that, we should be successful.”
Schneeberger is also looking to some new faces to fill out the team. Zarek Haskell and Brady Jennings have been impressing out of the freshman newcomers, and Jeremy Galloway is a track runner who is out to try cross country as a junior.
The girls are led by a state qualifier from last year. Sophomore Camryn Sattler impressed in her freshman season.
“It’s a new year and everyone has to earn it,” Schneeberger said. “Camryn had a good freshman year in both cross country and track, but she knows it won’t be handed to her. It’s motivated her in the weight room and in workouts. “
She’s joined by seniors Hattie Nickles, Abby Struble and Sofia Tello, juniors Anna Current and Sophie Nickles, and sophomores Madelyn Robinson and Amara Shepard. New faces that look to contribute are Sescie Haan and Rose Kelly. Sescie is a freshman, while Rose is a junior.
“This group of ladies has a lot of varsity experience even though six of them were underclassmen last year,” Schneeberger said. “It’s going to be a very competitive situation to see who represents us on varsity and hopefully that will push the ladies to perform at their highest level.”
Schneeberger is especially happy with the offseason and weightroom work his team has put in to prepare for the year.
With Sattler qualifying for the Class 4A state meet last season, breaking a drought from Fort Dodge for Clinton, Schneeberger knows that his kids now have a clearer picture of the goals they’re working for.
“When you have a returning state qualifier it gives your team a constant barometer of what that caliber of effort and pace looks like,” Schneeberger said. “You hope it becomes a “why not me?” type scenario and that people are motivated to chase and compete with that level of athlete.
“Having Camryn medal throughout the year and seeing other athletes PR helps generate momentum and we try to nurture that. We want to continue to build the fire in a sense.”
The cross country numbers have been steadily growing the last couple of years, and now boasts 50 athletes on the team. Schneeberger has been a constant as head coach for the entirety of the current team’s careers.
“Each year is an entirely new vibe, but the core values of the program stay the same,” Schneeberger said. “We go out and try to recruit a very particular type of kid; kids that we know are good students, friendly, involved, want to put in the work, and have fun. We want kids who want to spend time and work hard together. This group is just that.”
The Clinton runners get one home meet this year: that starting gun goes off on Tuesday afternoon at Emma Young Park.
“You can expect the same blue collar, family approach we always bring,” Schneeberger said of his 2021 team. “We have great kids who show up everyday with a smile on their face ready to work. We return a lot of our top runners and with another year of experience under their belt, we expect them to take the next step.
“It’s 4A cross country in the state of Iowa, there aren’t too many easy meets out there and that is what we want. We feel we’re going to compete hard and represent Clinton the best we can.”