Reed City cross country runners expect to be strong again

Reed City runners are confident of having a strong season. (Herald Review file photo)

Reed City runners are confident of having a strong season. (Herald Review file photo)

REED CITY - Reed City's cross country teams are coming off another strong season and are hopeful to carry it on through 2021.

"With all of the uncertainly around the 2020 season, we still met expectations and had a great year," Coyote coach Rich Saladin said. "Senior Abbigail Kiaunis was the overall CSAA champion for the girls, set a school record, and qualified for the state championships for the fourth consecutive year. She finished 12th overall. Senior Claudia Francke and sophomore Nora Smoes also earned all-conference honorable mentioned and the Coyote girls finished second in conference. Smoes also qualified for states and finished 152nd out of 247 finishers.

"The boys had a very young team with two freshmen, Ryan Allen and Anthony Kiaunis, leading the way. They both earned all-conference honorable mention and qualified for state. Ryan finished 78th and Anthony 102nd out of 250 finishers. Izaiah Lentz, Elijah Lentz, both freshmen, and Ty Kailing and Mason Dozier, both sophomore, helped anchor a team that finished third in the CSAA Gold."

Kiaunis was Reed City's lead runner for four years on the girls' side.

"She will be greatly missed," Saladin said. "She was always at the lead of each race and set the tone for the team. Claudia Francke is another top runner that we'll have a tough time replacing, a great runner and great leader. On the boys' side, Gavin Throop was a solid runner, team captain and just a good kid and we'll miss him, too.

"The girls will have a lot of depth on their team. Nora Smoes (junior) will lead the way with experienced runners in Paige Lofquist (senior), Taylor Hilliard (senior), and Olivia Lewis (junior), also being in the top half. Incoming freshmen Carly Carlson, Clara Smoes, and Alaina Hanson will also make impact. The boys will be very young in the top seven. Ryan Allen (sophomore) and Anthony Kiaunis (sophomore) will be up there along with freshman Gus Rohde. Twins Izaiah and Elijah Lentz (sophomores) and juniors Ty Kailing and Mason Dozier will anchor a strong top seven. Senior Nathan Huss has a chance to mix it up in there, too."

Saladin has some key expectations for his team.

"I think we'll be able to do a lot of pack running and support each other throughout the race," he said. "I have high hopes for this group and think we'll surprise some of our competitors.

"Our teams have gotten better and better each year and I expect that trend to continue. Last year, we sent four runners through the regionals and on to state. I think we have the chance to send even more this year.

"We have great athletes, not just runners. Endurance and speed over the length of the course will be a factor. As always, we love to run hills and the kids embrace those workouts. We also have great team bonding and kids pick each other up. Just like every XC team, we need to get faster while spreading our effort over the course. We have great kicks to finish. The kids will learn that they can still kick while working hard throughout the race. The kids also need to embrace rest days. They love to work."

Reed City girls won the CSAA Gold title in 2019.

"We are fortunate to compete in a great league like the CSAA Gold," Saladin said. "Chip Hills is always a contender. Fremont's boys team has won back-to-back state championships in Division 2. Big Rapids has some extremely talented runners. I think we can compete with every team in our conference. Over the last five years, RC cross country is back on the map. Our kids are meeting expectations and pushing themselves to be better and compete. I think we'll be in the thick of things at the conference level.

"The kids are working hard with the expectation that they will compete and not have the rug pulled out underneath them. This has been a great summer and we pray it continues into the fall, winter, and spring. These kids deserve the opportunity to play with no restrictions."

The Coyotes opened the season at Chippewa Hills on Tuesday.