Year after year, Tom Wagner, Pettisville head cross country coach, has listed numbers as one of his teams’ strengths.
This year is no different for the Pettisville mentor, who is entering his 34th year at the helm of the Blackbirds.
Both teams have 14 runners back, and each has seven letterwinners.
“We do have good numbers, but we are young,” said Wagner.
“On the boys side, we have six freshmen and three sophomores. The girls are young, also, with eight of the 14 either being freshmen or sophomores.
“We have a very talented group of young runners who are hard-working on the girls team, and we have hard-working individuals that enjoy running on the boys team.
“We have good leadership on both squads.”
Jacob Hunter is the only returning senior letterwinner.
Returning juniors are Kyle Lantz, First Team All-Buckeye Border Conference; Nathan Siller; Evan Rufenacht; and Clay Waidelich.
Sophomore letterwinners are Ben Gray and Seth Brakefield.
Junior letterwinners Elizabeth Miller, First Team All-BBC; Hannah Herring; Jaelyn Rufenacht; Becky Tilley; and Andrea Aeschliman are back, along with sophomores Alexa Leppelmeier, BBC MVP and state qualifier, and Krystine Davis.
The boys team lost three First Team All-BBC runners– Dominic Frey, Jeremy Mann, and Daniel Sauder– along with Austin Dykstra.
Taylor D’Alelio was lost to graduation on the girls’ side.
“We should be very competitive with other small schools,” said Wagner.
The Pettisville girls team “should be in the hunt for the BBC crown.”
As far as the BBC outlook for the boys team, “Fayette has everyone back and should be the ‘team to beat.’ We hope to gain experience as the season progresses and be a contender,” said the PHS mentor.
Assisting Wagner with coaching duties is Gabe Jaramillo.
The Birds are scheduled to open their season, Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Ohio High School Athletic Association Early Season Invitational at Hebron.