CENTER, Mo. | The Mark Twain High School cross country team will enter the 2020 season hoping to improve each week and push forward to reach individual and team goals.
Mark Twain cross country coach Erin Mack said team members are hoping to advance to the state meet as a team and earn individual honors such as All-Conference and All-District selections.
“My returners want to build on the 2019 season and beat their previous season's personal best time,” Mack said. “My newcomers want to be competitive with the upperclassmen and keep improving on their times.”
Mack will look to Zoe Miller to provide leadership to the girls team and for Will Owen to provide leadership for the boys team. Miller is entering her senior year and competed in the state meet in each of the previous two years.
Other runners Mack sees competing for bids in the state meet include Matera Ellis, Brandon Fullenwider and Brandon Black.
“(Miller) is looking strong this season and I anticipate she will return (to state) again this year as a senior,” Mack said. “Matera Ellis is young, but has the drive it is going to take to advance to the state meet. Will Owen has been working really hard to get to the state meet, and he is a strong runner.”
Mark Twain also returns Elizabeth Northcutt, Chase Lake, Lauren Booth, Thomas Barnes and Gabe Howald to this year's team. Mack looks for all of them to have an opportunity to step forward this season.
“All five of these athletes are dedicated to this sport and never let up in practice,” Mack said. “Each of them improved over the course of our 2019 season and are coming in fired up for the 2020 season.”
The girls team will have six runners who will compete in varsity meets, with a few freshmen and sophomores who will mostly compete at the JV level. The boys team has eight runners on the varsity level, with the seven fastest who will run at meets. There are also several freshmen and sophomores on the boys JV squad.
There are four freshmen runners who are newcomers to the team this year; Anna Owen and Cynthia Resor on the girls side and Colten Eisele and Ayiden Davis on the boys side.
Mack said all four new runners are great additions to the team and are determined to do well this season.
“Both (Owen and Resor) show passion for the sport and are strong runners,” Mack said. “Eisele ran as an eighth-grader last year and brings intensity to our practices. This is Davis's first year (running) cross country.”
Unlike it past seasons, the 2020 squad will be competing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Twain plans on social distancing, not sharing water bottles and limiting contact like high fives as precautionary measures.
Mark Twain opens up the cross country season with the Mexico Invitational that also includes Bowling Green, Centralia, Monroe City, Hannibal, Palmyra, Brookfield, La Plata, New Franklin, Prairie Home and Macon. Two of the scheduled races on Mark Twain's schedule have already been canceled, the Sept. 15 meet at Quincy Notre Dame and the Oct. 10 meet at Hannibal.
Even with the cancellations, there is one meet Mark Twain is looking forward to in particular.
“We always look forward to the EMO Conference meet,” Mack said. “This gives us an opportunity to compete against area competitors and really sets the tone going into our district meet.”