Brookfield Central's boys cross country team is seeking to get back on top of the Greater Metro Conference this season.
The Lancers were an illness away (Andrew Dusing) of repeating as conference champions last season, as the GMC was extremely tight with one point separating the top three teams.
Ronn Blaha is beginning his 12th season as the Lancers head coach and 18th overall and Chris Demos is in his eighth year as his assistant.
The Lancers should again be in the mix this year as they return three all-conference runners and have added a few talented new runners.
Brookfield East returns the core from last season's team as does West Allis Hale. Marquette is always in the mix and will be again this year.
The Lancers host the WIAA Sectional Meet this year as they seek to return to Wisconsin Rapids for the state meet. Brookfield East and Marquette will again be the top challengers, joined by Nathan Hale and South Milwaukee as teams that will challenge the Lancers for the top two spots.
Central will have to overcome the loss of Mr. Cross Country, Carl Hirsch, but will return Kevin Rindfleisch, Daniel Pearson and sophomore Josh Trasser, three third-team All-Greater Metro Conference performers. Junior Riley Tsang is the other varsity returning letter-winner.
Blaha's captains are Rindfleisch, Pearson and Jack Feltes.
Blaha had some brief comments about his returnees.
Rindfleisch (16:54 personal record): "An experienced and incredibly consistent runner, Kevin again ran his best during the championship phase of the season. His progression as a runner has been steady and he will consistently score well in the meets. He has had a great off season of running."
Pearson (16:56 PR): "Daniel is a driven competitor who placed second in the World Duathlon competition."
Trasser (17:02 PR): "Josh is a natural runner who gained valuable experience as a varsity cross country runner last year."
Tsang (17:35 PR): "Riley is a talented runner who is looking to bounce back from an injury-filled 2012."
Blaha also has other runners who should see some action.
Michael Flatley, senior: "Michael is running cross country for the first time after swimming for a club previously. He is a great endurance athlete and had a solid first track season last spring."
Josh Peltier, senior (18:25 PR): "Josh is a great multi-sport athlete and had a solid season last year, his first in cross country."
Aaron Nelson, junior (18:19 PR): "Aaron is a naturally talented runner who could place high if the competitive fire lights."
Sam Schreiner, sophomore (18:31 PR) and freshmen Marco Wajda and Joey Schindler could also contribute.
Out of star's shadow
"It will be impossible to replace Carl Hirsch, the greatest runner in the history of Brookfield Central and one of the greatest ever in the state of Wisconsin," Blaha said. "Fortunately, we have a group of talented and dedicated runners that are looking to make their own mark.
"They benefited from running with Carl as he provided an inspiration and a model of hard work that the guys can work to emulate. In a way, they may grow as runners as they emerge from the shadow of attention that Carl deservedly received. This is their team now.
"They have worked hard all summer. We had 10 to 20 guys out there every day putting in the miles. They are excited to see what they can do."
The Lancers will not have a single standout runner but will benefit from having a solid core of athletes that will pack together near the top of the field.
Trasser, Pearson, Rindfleisch and Flatley should run in the mid 16-minute range. There will be another pack of runners in the mid 17-minute range.
"We will be led by three guys who have gained valuable cross country running experience at the varsity level," Blaha said. "All three have performed well at the big meets. We will rely on Pearson, Trasser and Rindfleisch to lead the team in those big meets."
Blaha has a deep talent pool from which to draw. There will be a lot of competition for those varsity spots.
"The lack of a front runner will hurt, but we will be compensated with the tight pack near the front," Blaha said. "The team will also be looking for someone to step up and give us a solid number five runner. Nelson, Peltier, Wajda, Tsang and Schreiner all have the capability to pop through and score well for us."
The Lancers open the season on Aug. 29 in the Menomonee Falls Grade Level Challenge at Rotary Park.
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