Regina Cross Country Focused on State Title Run
By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Last year was about getting back to the state meet for the Regina boys cross country team.
The Regals hope to make this season about getting back on top.
Regina followed up a rare two-year state meet absence that ended a string of 20 straight trips to state with a third place finish at the Class 1A state meet last season.
With three of its top four finishers from last year’s state meet squad returning Regina enters 2016 wanting more than a return trip to state.
“Last year was good because it kind of got us back into that stride that we were so used to,” Regina junior Nathan Meyer said. “We needed it because now we can carry that confidence into this year.”
Juniors Nate Green, Oliver Emery and Meyer all return after logging top-40 finishes at state last season.
Green earned the first individual medal of his career with a sixth place finish last year in 17:08.6 as Regina finished five points behind 1A runner-up Pekin.
Meyer finished 19th at state a year ago and Emery was 40th.
Ian Ochoa, Nathan Meyer, Joel Sueppel“With this group of juniors with Nate Green and Nathan Meyer but also Joe Lipsius and Nicholas Yowell and Oliver Emery I’m really excited to see how far we can go,” Regina coach Chad Swope said. “A number of individuals are way ahead of where they were last year at this point so I’m excited to see how far they can go.”
Green, Meyer and Emery give Regina a strong returning core but the Regals have depth behind them.
Senior Ian Ochoa gives the Regals four returning runners with state meet experience after placing 89th last season.
“If we focus and buckle down we can definitely be a contender and make it on the balcony this year,” Ochoa said. “We got third place last year and this year if we have Nathan Meyer, Nate Green and we have four or five goes with them we can be state champions.”
Regina will make the move to 2A this season as it seeks the ninth state title in program history and fourth under Swope.
The last title for Regina came in Class 2A in 2010.
“I think we are going to contend for the state championship,” senior Joel Sueppel said. “We have a lot of returning guys and a lot of people that I think will really step it up for this team.”
The Regina girls team just missed a top three finish last season placing fourth in Class 1A in its return to the state meet.
With all seven runners from last year’s state meet squad returning the Regals expect to contend for much more this year.
“Last year we lost a bunch of our top runners (from the year before) but we were shocked at how far we went and how much we accomplished because we didn’t know going into the season how we were going to do,” Regina senior Sara Burlage “Just making it to state and getting fourth was pretty great but this year we think we can do even better.”
Sophomore Molly Blondin leads the list of returners after placing seventh at state in her debut season.
Natalie Shank, Sara BurlageJunior Natalie Shank (24th), sophomore Molly Vittetoe (30th), junior Nourah Abusada (36th), Burlage (38th) and senior Elizabeth Klesner (39th) all return after finishing in the top 40 at state last year.
Sophomore Mary Graff is the seventh runner returning from last year’s squad and placed 44th at state a year ago.
“I think it also helps with team chemistry because we have all run together,” Shank said. “We aren’t losing anyone so we are just gaining more people. That is just motivation to run better and run together and keep pushing each other.”
Last season was the first year the girls joined the boys running a 5 Kilometer course.
With a year of the longer distance under its belt Swope expects even more from his young but talented girls team.
“A year ago the girls were running a 5K for the first time and you can see the determination in these girls this time,” Swope said. “Last year it was like what the heck are we doing and now they are determined.”