COLERAINE — There will be a slightly different atmosphere around the Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin cross country camp this season.
Gone is Geno Urhbom, who dominated the running scene for the past six seasons, but that doesn’t mean the Titan boys are going anywhere soon.
With seniors Daniel Olson and Connor Thoennes back, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin still has a solid foundation to keep up its success in Class A.
Now, they’re in that leadership role, and both Olson and Thoennes are relishing the opportunity to keep the program strong.
“We tried to bring the team closer together because we know it’s going to take a lot more of a team effort than it has in the past,” Olson said. “We know we still have a good shot, especially moving into three classes.
“That was a huge help for us. We’re looking forward to seeing how we can do without having that guy, and being more of a team.”
They learned from their former teammate, so they have that experience to pass along to their younger teammates.
“Geno helped us get that experience at the state meets,” Olson said. “We know what that’s like, so we can carry that over to the younger guys that didn’t have that when he was here, and just step up in those roles.
“That helps. Conner and I are both hoping for top five in the section. We’re hoping for all of our positions, besides first, to be the fastest they’ve been. We should have a solid shot at that.”
Thoennes agreed with that assessment.
“We have to be out there,” Thoennes said. “It’s harder to not have that faster pace ahead of us, and to be chasing after him. We have to try and change our pace and show that we can do the same thing, but at our own pace, and show what our team can do.
“We have all been working together to push our paces, and get ourselves up there to compete. We want to put some higher points there as a team.”
Both Olson and Thoennes know that it’s going to take times in the lower 17s and upper 16s to get that success.
“I’m hoping for quite a bit faster than that,” Olson said. “My main goal this year is getting into the 16:40s. That’s where Spencer Engel ran, and I always wanted to be faster than Spencer.
“I know that’s where I know I need to be for the team to have the success we need to have. We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Thoennes said, I plan on running with Daniel mostly. Both Daniel and I have been working at our paces, pushing each other in practices to get down there. Hopefully, I can push him to do that, push him under the 16:40s into the low 16:30s and 16:20s, if we can.
“We want to end on a high note, plus, we’ll be setting our team on a straight path for the upcoming years.”
Don’t expect too much of a dropoff for the Titan boys.
“That’s not the plan,” Olson said. “We still have a good group of core guys. Our top four have a lot of experience. We’ve been here for quite a few years. We’ve got some younger guys that most people don’t know about.
“I don’t think we’re going anywhere, even after this year. We’re good for a couple of years. We want them to see what we’ve put into it. We want them to get the same results as us, so the program continues to succeed even after we’re gone.”
While the boys have been the most successful over the past few seasons, the girls program has been building to a crescendo.
This might be the year that the girls make some noise in the section.
The Titans are led by senior Brooke Petrich. She is joined on the team by juniors Emma Williams and Avalynn Westphal and sophomores Kaitlyn Olson and Karly Mann.
“It’s been hard for the girls team to match what the boys teams have accomplished the last few years,” Petrich said. “We have it in our heads that we want to be where they are. That’s what we base it off of, ‘Oh the boys went to state, and we can do it, too.’
“It’s going to take a lot for us. We have to drop our times, but in the end, anyone can do it.”
Greenway coach Will Floersheim believes the girls will have the breakout season this year.
“I’m excited for the girls team,” Floersheim said. “Our boys are still going to be competitive. The kids worked hard all summer. The girls, I say this every year, I’m waiting for the year when they take the next step.
“We have some girls that are ready to go this year. The talent that we saw on the track this last spring. On the distance side, we had some girls take some nice steps forward. We’ve had a consistent group of girls that have worked well together. They’ve paid the price to come out here and have some success this fall.”
Williams could be the key to that success, and a possible team-state berth.
“For the whole team it’s a realistic possibility,” Petrich said. “Emma, it’s her first year, and she’s kicking it so far, with amazing times. Her track season was phenomenal. Honestly, it’s a lot of motivating them, getting them to see that there’s something to compete for.”