CLINTON — The Prince of Peace cross country teams are gearing up for their first meet of the season next week.
The Prince of Peace boys and girls cross country teams are slated to begin their season with a competition Sept. 2 at Iowa City Regina. This year’s team has five runners on the boys team and one runner on the girls team.
The boys team is led by junior Marcus Blount. He was the lone runner on the boys team the last couple years, Head Coach Owen Howard confirmed. Sophomore Jhikeith McGraw and Freshmen Nehemiah Mallicoat, Hakael Powell and Tate Ruden round out the Irish boys cross country roster.
”That’ll be the first time we actually have a boys team in, actually it’s been a while. Probably about four years it’s been,” Howard said. “So it’s been just Marcus on the high school boys side the last couple years. So it’ll be a new experience for Marcus to actually have some boys teammates out there running.”
The girls cross country team’s lone runner this year is Madison Schnier, Howard said. In the past, the Irish have had a full team but had a group of seniors last year, Howard said.
”It can be a little challenging that she doesn’t have another girl runner there to work with,” Howard said. “Luckily, I mean we have a wide variety of guys from a top-tier runner to your not-so-top tier. And she can still qualify as an individual so she can still work her tail off and run with the guys. Actually, in my first year, I had one girl and guys team and that girl ended up qualifying and finishing in the top 30 out at state.”
Meanwhile, Howard believes having a full roster for the boys team can be beneficial for Blount as opposed to past years when he was the lone runner on the team.
”I can start the boys in front of him and he can go out and chase them down,” Howard said. “We kind of benefit a little bit. I’m also the middle school coach so the middle school boys and girls are always at high school practices anyway once their season starts. So Marcus knows all the boys from previous years running.”
Three of the four newcomers to the boys team participated in cross country in middle school, Howard said. They already have the competitive edge, he said. The adjustment they have to make is running 3.1 miles after running 2 miles in middle school, Howard said.