Last fall, the boys and girls cross country teams at West Central Area High School qualified for the state meet.
After the boys’ second place finish followed by the girls coming in ninth, the Knights are poised to make another push at a very big season. The boys are bringing back a strong core that carried them to a runner-up finish, while the girls are looking to replace the centerpiece of their program.
The boys team will be led by seniors Jacob Bright and Jack Van Kempen. Also returning is junior Kyle Schill and sophomores Kade Runge, Alex Salwasser, Reubens Swanson and Shad Swanson. The boys took the top spot in Section 6A in 2018.
“They are working together and working hard thus far into the season,” head coach John Van Kempen said.
The girls only had one senior graduate, but it was a decorated one. Ella Van Kempen competed in five state meets since 2014. Replacing a talent who has been so consistently good will be a challenge for the eight returning letter winners.
Along with leaders Bright, Van Kempen and Schill on the boys team, sophomore Lexi Bright and senior Teagan Nelson have been under pressure before.
“They have a lot of experience in big races and are top-shelf students,” coach Van Kempen said. “We couldn't ask for better role models in our hallways and in competitions.”
The girls also bring back junior Brynn Fernholz, sophomore Kennedy Porter and eighth graders Taylor Bennet, Terina Blascyk, Alexa Blume and Sydney Ulrick.
For as good as WCA has been over the years, Perham has been better. The defending boys and girls state champions in Class A will run against WCA in the Heart O’Lakes Conference.
“They don’t ever seem like they’re rebuilding,” Van Kempen said.
Section 6A also has some good competition. Staples-Motley will give both the boys and the girls a run for their money, coach Van Kempen said. Eden Valley-Watkins and Albany will also be tough opponents for the girls.