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Future stays bright for Panzer's second season

Underclassmen lead charge for Trojan cross-country

Staff writer

First-year coach Trojan cross-country coach Kodi Panzer and her young team was already looking ahead to the 2019 season before 2018 even wrapped up the final weekend in October.

Both Panzer and her team thought that with their returning runners Hillsboro was only going to get better.

Don’t look now, but ‘next year’ is here and Panzer and the Trojans are bursting at the seams to get back to building on last year’s success.

“We’ve been having group running twice a week all summer to prepare for this year,” Panzer said. “All our letter-winners set new personal records this past year and we hope to better them.”

That’s perfectly understandable, especially when Panzer’s got at least two more years with as many state qualifiers back.

If anything put a damper on the 2018 season, depth and injury denied the Trojans enough competitors to keep a team score.

The issue should be remedied this year with the freshmen class providing Panzer enough runners so the Trojans can register a score.

Although there’s a shortage of upperclassmen with Jason Latham and Millie Sechrist Hillsboro’s lone seniors, the Trojans still have two leaders despite being a junior and a sophomore.

Emersyn Funk made a huge explosion a year ago as a freshman, toppling former standout Abby Driggers’ school record set in 2015.

Funk qualified for the Class 3-2-1A state meet at Wamego in her first go-round, where she finished 32nd out of 96 runners in 22:27.

All of Panzer’s runners improved each week, and if that continues her sophomore year, Funk’s easily capable of improving on last year’s mark.

Sechrist was the Trojans’ other half of the one-two punch a year ago, and has the work ethic for a better year in her final year.

Panzer got a good glimpse of what this year could be with the dynamic duo of eighth graders Moriah Jost and Ainsley Duell.

If the duo, along with fellow freshman Karley Loewen, can adjust to the varsity course, the girls’ team is going to be a force for three more years.

Latham brings depth and experience after a strong junior season, but junior Caleb Diener made perhaps the biggest strides for the boys.

As Hillsboro’s other state qualifier a year ago, Diener took 50th out of 108th, fueled by an eighth-place finish at the Burlington regional in 18:18.

Panzer had a state qualifier in the stable a year ago, but injury kept Tristan Reed on the sideline for his sophomore season.

How quick Reed returns to the form that earned him a trip to Wamego as a freshman will have an impact on the boys’ outcome this year.

Sophomore Nathan Lopez will add another runner that will boost Hillsboro’s score as well as Caleb’s younger brother, freshman Josh.

In addition, keep an eye out for freshman newcomer Pedro Nieto, whose performances in practice has caught Panzer’s eye.

The boys will only get better, too, especially when Levi Allen starts high school in 2020.

The younger brother of Hillsboro great and current Tabor College cross-county coach, Joel, Levi went unbeaten as a seventh-grader during the season.

“We can’t wait to get back on the course,” Panzer said. “It’s apparent how hard the kids are working in practice.”

The Trojans won’t have to wait long as the season opens Sept. 5 at the Lindsborg Golf Course.

Last modified Aug. 29, 2019

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