By Lenny Sementi
In a fall cross country season filled with both anxiety and anxiousness, head coach Mike Rosenbaum and his assistant coaches Adam and Maria Crutchley calmed the water and led the boys and girls squad to a lot of success on and off the course. With sports cancelled last spring and the fear of no season in the fall the trio enjoyed great attendance in the summer and a boom to the rosters.
On the girls side, senior Laney Cummings, who had competed in volleyball prior years, was a big addition to the team after volleyball was moved to the spring. And on the boys side there were more than a few including seniors Aiden Beachy and James Boyd taking to the course with football also moving to the spring. The newcomers joined with the other end of the spectrum to deliver one of Tuscola’s best cross-country seasons in recent memory. Returning runners like Brynn Tabeling and Hannah Hornaday on the girl’s side and Riley Nolan and Logan Wallace on the boys welcomed the newcomers including a strong freshman class highlighted by Josiah Hortin.
Tabeling and Hornaday with classmate Kenzi Heckler were the backbone early on as senior leaders. Tabeling lowered her time by two and a half minutes as the year progressed and enjoyed most of her success as the end of the season “Brynn is an awesome kid to coach. She is ultra-competitive and she is always wanting to get better,” commented Rosenbaum. “And last year, I said at the awards ceremony that I wanted Hannah to be one of our leaders this year. She fulfilled this role in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Hannah has always been a leader by example, always being positive and always pushing herself. Kenzi showed a lot of dedication to the program throughout high school, as she is one of our four-year seniors. Her highlight this year was the conference meet, where she dropped five minutes off of her time and helped the girls to a third-place finish.”
Hornaday’s devotion to the sport and the squad led to the coveted Warrior Spirit award, Rosenbaum’s favorite one to deliver. “We had to choose somebody who, daily, gave great effort and had a great attitude. While there were a few girls that met this standard, there was one who set herself above the rest, by becoming more vocal as a leader and helping bring the girls team together.”
Cummings moved into a leadership role on the girl’s squad as the season progressed. She was able to erase nearly four minutes from her three mile start to finish and came up big at the Central Illinois Conference meet delivering her best time of the year by over a minute earning her All CIC honors at the fastest CIC meet in the leagues five year existence. She garnered the team’s MVP award as well and was the Mo-Do County Champion.
“Laney is a lot of fun to coach as well, primarily that she’s really smart and I know she has high expectations of herself as a competitor,” stated Rosenbaum. “Despite being a first year runner, Laney fell into a leading role on her team, and we will absolutely miss her next year.”
Rounding out the girls were freshman Lauren Woods, sophomores Mia Hausmann, Makenzie Herschberger, and Reggan Smith, and juniors Kyla Gough and Skylar Wilkins. All runners took precious minutes off their times with Woods and Gough lowering them the most, taking over five minutes off their personal best start to finish.
Smith’s competitiveness was a key to her success this season, she never settled for being where she was, always looking to improve her time. She also had the uncanny knack for running her last mile the fastest, which is pretty unusual for most experienced runners, let alone a first-year runner earning her the team’s Most Improved Runner award.
Seniors Aiden Beachy, James Boyd and Clay Hausmann were all newcomers to the boy’s team with football not being played. Beachy found his way into the varsity lineup midway through the season and was a fixture in the top five late and secured the Warrior Spirit award. Boyd brought an enthusiasm to the squad that lightened the mood day in and day out and Hausmann provided a lead by example work ethic that was infectious.
Hortin and freshman classmate Jackson Barrett followed the lead of just two returning letter winners. Wallace and Nolan challenged the two youngsters and eleven newcomers day in and day out in the summer and that didn’t change when the races started leading the team to a second place effort at the Cow Chips Classic, MoDo County Championship and a third place finish at the CIC meet. Nolan was one of the team’s most consistent runners, he trimmed nearly two minutes off his time as the year moved forward. Wallace came out of the gate strong but some injuries curbed his training for a big part of the season but showed up late in big races. “We will look to Logan and Riley to lead the way for us as seniors next year,” Rosenbaum stated. “Their leadership will be necessary if our boy’s team is going to take the next step.”
Another junior Thomas Brown proved anything was possible running sub seven and a half minute miles at the end of the year erasing over eight minutes from his time start to finish. The coaches are looking forward to him improving as a runner while using his leadership skills to push the program forward.
The youth movement fueled by Hortin and fellow freshman Jackson Barrett was on display early and often throughout the season. Hortin started collecting hardware in the first big meet of the year placing top five at the Cow Chip Classic and never looked back advancing out of the regional to the sectional level while turning in a time that would have qualified him for the state championships. He was the MoDo County Champion while also collecting All CIC honors, Tuscola’s Greg Weaver Underclassmen to Watch award and the team’s MVP award. “From the first meet at Judah Christian to the end of the year, Josiah trimmed off two minutes,” Rosenbaum said. “We will look for him to carry that natural talent into a highly successful XC career.”
Barrett was right behind him and was a scorer in every meet he ran, erasing two minutes off his personal best from the start of the season to the end of it. Classmate Will Foltz is another that the coaching staff will look to in the future. Foltz, a letter winner, lowered his PR by over two minutes and should be a force next year.
Mason Veach, and Ben Hornaday were the top performers in the sophomore class. Like the senior class they each brought something different to the table for the coaching staff to highlight. Veach and Hornaday both earned letters. “Both guys progressed and came up big for us at the conference meet,” Rosenbaum quipped.
“This year has been crazy with frequent schedule changes, and everything else,” stated Rosenbaum. “The Crutchleys were an excellent sounding board and also came up with a lot of great ideas. I do not consider myself creative in the least, but Adam and Maria came up with a lot of good ideas to highlight the kids and make it fun despite the adversity the kids had to deal with. I’d like to thank the kids for a fantastic year this year, and allowing me to coach them. I hope this season was as enjoyable for you as it was for me. You guys made it great.”