Mexico CC has strong senior presence

By Michael Selecky

Sports Editor

While losing Caleb Robertson to graduation wasn't a good thing for the Mexico varsity cross country program, it could have been worse.

What does bode well for the Bulldogs is the fact he was the only athlete not returning from a year ago. That means returners likeAlex Dukes, Tyler Brandow, Gage Worley, Marquis Smith and Tom Calaluce are all a year older, faster and stronger as they set the example for those new to the varsity.

"I am so happy to have all the freshmen and watch the progress the young JV runners are making already. But in terms of speed notable freshmen that are likely to see varsity time are Carsen Neal and Raef Yager," said head coach John Wilbers. "Raef was noted for his running while in the seventh and eighth grade and Carsen put in big miles this summer like the upper classmen. They should both see exciting results."

For the Lady Bulldogs this summer featured plenty of training by returners Nichole Martin, Rosanna McKeown, Lesli Key and Shannon Stice. Because it takes seven to fill a varsity event lineup, there will also be space for contributions from freshmen such as Anna Fairchild and Moneasia Sidique. as well as several others.

"Our teams will always be in the top three or four at local meets. We'll take hills better than many teams, we'll lead with Alex Dukes a lot and race smart by passing at key times," Wilbers said. "This team trains hard, has lots of desire to be good and loves one another. That combination makes them incredibly successful and tough to beat. And this year we're starting in a stronger place than any years recently, we will keep training to be great but I don't see major weaknesses on this team."

As for the teams to beat in the North Central Missouri Conference, Helias and Fulton are currently two programs to keep an eye on. Adding fuel to this competitive fire is Mexico's close win at the league meet last year, and even though that didn't equate to a district title, the stakes will only get higher as each of these teams tries to reach the top of the standings.

"We don't run just to win. Winning is great, but we run for lots of reasons. This team believes in each other and truly wants to give their best. As a result, we expect some exciting and big wins," said Wilbers. "If the boys win the conference again there is a strong chance they will make it to state as a team. If they make it to state there is a chance of making history. We just need to put the work in as we go along."

One lesser recognized facet of this effort is assistant coach Lucas Breneman. Instead, the words these teams live by, which are, "RUN DXC = Dawgs Cross Country as well as determination, excellence and commitment," ring just a little more true because the message isn't coming from just one source.

"The girls I think will also surprise a lot of the other teams in the district by how much tougher they will be and how much they have grown since last year, which is going to give them a double competitive edge," Wilbers said. "Both teams should be fun to follow and watch The JV should be strong too, they are the next generation of runners so we want to see them be successful as well. The competition (in the NCMC) is still going to be intense, very close and hard fought."