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Mitchell cross country carries young roster into new season

The Kernels only return six letter winners from a year ago, but with a lot of newcomers, the roster remains fairly similar in size to last season.

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Mitchell's Brock Russell and Mitchell Christian's Silas Holdeman run in the Mitchell Invitational cross country meet Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021 at Wild Oak Golf Course. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)
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MITCHELL — There is some inexperience but promise surrounding the Mitchell cross country team heading into 2022.

The Kernels only return six letter winners from a year ago, but with a lot of newcomers, the roster remains fairly similar in size to last season. And the letter winners that are returning, give Mitchell a shot at competing in events this season.

“Those six kids were our leaders last year,” head coach Katie Buschbach said of the letter winners. “To have those guys back is a really great thing for our team and our program.”

A season ago, Mitchell's girls team finished 18th at the Class AA state meet, while the Mitchell boys were last among 19 boys teams at the Class AA boys state meet, without a runner in the top 100 finishers.

The only male returners are Brock Russell and Elijah Schroeder, who Buschbach said should be Mitchell's leading runners. On top of that, the Kernels have Alexis Daley, Mya Vogel, Aspen Evers and Kennedy Olsen coming back for the upcoming season. Olsen was Mitchell's top finisher at the state meet last year, checking in at 83rd as a junior.

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However, Mitchell has a lot of sixth graders on the team this year, making for a younger team than in most years. Despite a young team, though, there are higher expectations for some individual runners.

“Expectations are pretty high for Brock (Russell) and Eli (Schroeder) yet this year,” Buschbach said.

The Kernels also get London Schroeder back from an injury last season, and Buschbach expects her to be in the mix for the top girls spot on the team as just an eighth grader this year.

Mitchell starts its season at Wild Oak Golf Course on Saturday, Aug. 27 for the annual Mitchell Invitational, and has about one meet a week until the state meet in late October.

Buschbach said the Kernels are trying to stay a bit closer to home for their road meets this season in hopes of competing against more schools similar in size as opposed to traveling to places like Sioux Falls as they’ve done in years past.

“It’s more so for the kids to be able to learn how to push themselves harder and compete,” she said about competing against similarly sized schools. “It's really hard to push your time and to compete when you know you're in these big gaps, which happens a lot in those big races.”

Buschbach is also setting time standards to qualify for the state meet this year for Mitchell. She said the idea is to give the runners a time to shoot for and work toward to prepare for the state meet.

“(It) gives them a little bit more of an edge to be able to compete,” Buschbach said of the time standards for the state meet. “I think Eli and Brock will be really great at state. “They know what they have to do from Day 1.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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