BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — This year’s Maumee boys cross country team returns four of its top nine runners from a 2018 season in which it bettered 33 opponents and placed eighth at the district meet.
Although the Panthers did graduate third-team All-Northern Lakes League selection Chris Witzler, along with two more key runners in Robert East and Titus Marshall, they bring back a solid veteran and a strong sophomore class.
Eric Board leads this group after clocking the team’s second-fastest time last year at 17:45. He went on to place eighth in both the NLL and district 3200-meter runs to close out his freshman track season.
“Eric has been training hard all summer and we hope to see him break 17:00 this year,” said Maumee cross country coach Karen Brebberman.
Fellow sophomore Nick Johnstone next turned in Maumee’s third-fastest time of 18:30, classmate Robbie Stevens posted Maumee’s sixth-fastest time of 21:35 and sophomore Tylar Menning turned in a 26:12.
“Nick has also put in lots of summer training and is ready to compete, improve and be part of the top five Maumee runners,” Brebber-man said.
This year’s crew will also include junior transfer student Ethan Chambers from Leipsic, Ohio and nine incoming freshmen.
“Ethan is a great addition to our young Panthers team,” Brebberman said. “One of his many successes is a personal record time of 16:56 at the regional meet last fall.”
These high school newcomers include Dru Albright, Gavin Bekker, Kierce Gonzalez, Matthew Kane, Kaiden Koepfler, Caden Leck, Ayden McCarthy, Alex Stambaugh and Chaz Wilms.
“Ayden was an NLL champion in the 400-meter dash last spring and will no doubt contribute to the success of our team,” Brebberman said. “Chaz came to us from St. Patrick’s and has been working hard and showing great potential to compete in the top seven.”
“The team has been working hard both during the summer and in season training. I am excited about our large freshman class this year. I look forward to watching the entire team improve this season.”
The Panthers’ girls squad returns six of its top 11 runners, including last year’s No. 1 in junior Abi Smalley (23:01).
Senior Jordan Leasor and sophomore Sydney King next posted Maumee’s third- and fourth-fastest times of 23:56 and 24:14.
Leasor is a fourth-year varsity team member and Smalley and King teamed up to help Maumee’s 3200 relay team to a sixth-place NLL finish last spring.
“Jordan is working hard and we hope to see her beat her PR this year,” Brebberman said.
Junior Lexi Szyndler (25:19) and sophomore Keragan McConaughey (26:23) also finished in the Panthers’ top seven on last year’s team, which also included another sophomore in Camryn O’Shea (27:10).
“Abi and Lexi are ready to have successful cross country seasons,” Brebberman said. “Both girls have been working hard and continue to show the younger runners the importance of committing to the program to get the best results.
“I expect good things from Sydney, Keragan and Camryn as well. With a year of experience under their belt and the summer training they put in, I already see many improvements from last year.”
This year’s newcomers include junior Swiss exchange student Sophie Schneider and freshman Claire Farthing.
“Claire is going to be a positive contributor to our team,” Brebberman said. “We are so fortunate Sophie chose cross country as her sport. She has been working hard and will add to our team accomplishments.
“I look forward to working with this fine group of young ladies and seeing what they can do this season.”