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OSAWATOMIE — The Osawatomie cross country team has been hitting the streets and the track, putting in miles to prepare for the season.

Osawatomie has 34 runners out for the high school and middle school programs. There are 16 girls on the team with nine high school runners and seven middle school runners. The boys program has 18 runners, including 13 on the high school team.

Eight letter-winners are back for the program.

Ready to lead the Osawatomie cross country team are seniors Justin Bradley, Theo Herbert and Thaid Timblin, juniors Tyler Manning, Kaden Carver and Sam Farley, and sophomores Chase Homrighausen and Tessa Thompson.

Senior Kaitlyn Fanning is also back to compete with the varsity.

“We have a nice mix of leadership skills amongst our seniors,” Osawatomie coach Hayden Mersman said. “Kaitlyn Fanning does a great job being a vocal leader, guiding the team throughout practices and supporting her teammates. Other seniors such as Justin Bradley do a great job leading by example. He is always striving to better himself. Our younger runners really look up to our seniors.”

Three newcomers ready to make an impact are Jacob Mitzner, Tristin Hammer and Hailey Pope.

“Our freshman class has some talented runners who have been running for me in middle school the past two years,” Mersman said. “I expect great things out of Jacob Mitzner and Tristian Hammer, who have competed for me in the past. They are naturally gifted runners with excellent work ethic.

“We also have Hailey Pope coming onto the team as a freshman on the girls team,” he said. “She is an awesome leader and has proved that she can post great times in the past.”

Coach Mersman is in his fifth season with the program.

Working hard and getting better is the key to having a great season, Mersman said. Everything else takes care of itself when you give it your all.

“Our main goal is to become better as a team, which hopefully, in turn, will make us competitive at our league meet,” Mersman said. “We stress the importance of getting something positive out of practice every day.

“Cross country takes a lot of mental toughness, and I believe we have great leaders on this team to teach this to the younger runners,” he said. “By holding our athletes accountable and striving to better ourselves, we should be successful in setting personal best times week in and week out.”

Osawatomie runners were busy this summer, running to train for the season, Mersman said.

“Our athletes have done a great job this summer balancing workouts with their hectic summer schedules,” Mersman said. “Many of our athletes have been working hard, logging in their miles and working out in the weight room. I have noticed a big difference in strength in a lot of our runners.”

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