Kodi Panzer no longer has the luxury of at least 15 runners from her first two years leading Hillsboro cross-country, but she’s not one to complain.
It helps that she has three state qualifiers returning, along with incoming talent that may mold a state title contender for four years.
“Both males and females are dominating practices early on in the season compared to near the end of last year’s season, due to the training program over the summer to reach their individual and team goals,” Panzer said.
There’s one more year for Hillsboro girls’ record holder and two-time state qualifier Emersyn Funk, but for boys runners Tristan Reed and Caleb Diener, it’s now or never.
Reed and Diener qualified for state two out of the past three years, and Reed just missed out on a top-20 finish a year ago, taking 22nd in 18:15.
Diener took 59th, beating the 19-minute mark in 18:56, so he also brought plenty experience this preseason.
Boys runners are easier to come by than girls this year, and the shortage of girls could make it impossible for them to score as a team.
Funk finished 16th as a sophomore, but several top-10 finishers from last year are graduated.
Outside of Funk, sophomore Moriah Jost’s determination and off-season training to make state bolster Panzer’s girls.
The shortage of girls could make it impossible for Hillsboro to score as a team, but that won’t be a problem for the boys, who may have one of their best teams in quite some time.
Toss in senior Carson Linnens, who made great strides after being injured the year before, and newcomer, Noah Bartel, the boys have their eyes on making it to state as a team.
One more runner would be needed for the boys to make it as a team, and the Trojans have one with highly touted freshman Levi Allen.
Allen, the brother of Trojan great Joel Allen, the former Tabor cross country coach, has never tasted defeat.
Panzer has been able to turn him loose and watch him cross the finish line first for two years. Whether that happens at the high school level remains to be seen.
Last modified Sept. 2, 2020