The 2015 cross country season was one for the record books at West Central Area High School. John VanKempen's tenth year as head coach was a memorable one as the Knights placed first in the Section 6A boys meet and fourth in the Class A State meet.
The boys team lost Chris Swenson, who was fifteenth in the state, to graduation, however, eighth place finisher Ryley Nelson returns for his senior year. He will be joined by seniors Ethan Olson, Drake Swanson and Austin Clavin, juniorsChase Veldhouse and Matt Poyzer, sophomore Timmy Ruud, freshmen Jacob Bright and Jack VanKempen, and eighth-grader Kyle Schill.
"All these guys ran varsity at various times of the year for us," noted VanKempen. "We will expect these guys to race it out to see who our top seven will be. Newcomer Hunter Mickelson will also be vying for some race time. He brings a good attitude and competitiveness to our program."
The girls lost Abby VanKempen and Hannah Frisch to graduation, but return state entrants Brynn Fernholz (8th) and Ella VanKempen (SO). Ninth graderTeagan Nelson will compete with Fernholz and VanKempen for top spots and junior Steph Toms also returns.
"Other than those four, we will be counting on some young runners to step up as the season progresses," said VanKempen. "We will also be having many newcomers to the sport who will help us be more competitive in meets."
In sizing up the competition VanKempen states, "Perham will be the team to beat again for both boys and girls in the Heart O' Lakes Conference. They have consistently set the bar year after year for area teams and I don't see that changing this year. In Section 6A for the girls, I expect Morris and Eden Valley-Watkins to be the teams to beat. Our girls placed fifth last year and I think we can do better this year. For the boys, I would hope we can again compete for another state trip with six of our seven back, but graduate Chris Swenson has left some big shoes to fill for an underclassman. Overall, our depth for the boys and girls should be greatly improved from last year and we are looking forward to our first meets in Morris and Breckenridge."
VanKempen will once again be assisted by Rick Toms.