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Crusaders are already turning heads with fast times, potential greatness on the course

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit senior Alexis Kebbe already has the fastest time in the Metro League for the Crusaders.

Life is good when your entire pack of boy runners can finish cross country races in less than 16 minutes and the biggest problem you have is finding a place in the lineup for all your talented female racers.

Both the Jesuit boys and girls cross country programs are stocked and well suited for runs toward both Metro League and Class 6A championships. This shouldn't be breaking news to anybody. The Crusaders are the tide that lifts all boats, the barometer that makes the Metro district better as a whole. Opponents can't really rest if they want to contend with Jesuit. Skip a day, coast through a workout, mail in a meet and rest assured the Crusaders are cranking wherever they're training. There are no real off days if you run for head coach Tom Rothenberger. Jesuit's talent speaks for itself. But the work ethic each of these competitors possesses is what makes them the cream of the crop.

This fall, Jesuit is already turning heads. Of the top-10 times in Metro, the Crusader boys own eight of them, including the top six. Junior Ryan Schumacher (15:36), senior Declan O'Scannlain (15:41), senior Sam Curran (15:44), sophomores John Schuler (15:57) and Caden Hildenbrand (16:10) and senior Jonas Larson (16:23) make up the Metro top-six. Jack Bennett, arguably the best of the Jesuit pack, hasn't run in a meet yet. Rothenberger said Jesuit will have runners who put down 16:15 times and will have to run in junior varsity races. There are still six weeks or so to in the regular season, but the Crusaders are already chugging toward another banner postseason.

"They can be a state contender," Rothenberger said. "We have five guys who have done their homework and are really committed and now we're trying to find (sixth) and (seventh) (runners). We have five that are really ready to hammer."

The girls are young and inexperienced with senior Alexis Kebbe leading from the forefront. To this point in the year, Kebbe has the best time in Metro (18:00). But despite the youth, there is ability up and down the lineup. Molly and Paige Grant, track and field stars in the middle distances, came out for cross country and sophomore sensation Chloe Foerster is a 400 meter and 4x400 meter relay state champion. Freshmen Naya Wrenn, Maggie Bennett and Natalie Jack are already in the top-11 individuals of Metro. Sophomore Clair Cooney and senior Lucy Balish are ranked 12thand 13thoverall in Metro.

"It's an interesting group, we could surprise some people by the time we're done," Rothenberger said. "We graduated five of our top seven from last year, but we have some tools. Each group is unique. The personality of each group is different. Right now there's a big gap between (Kebbe) and the rest of the girls, but by the end of the season that will have gotten smaller."

The twins and Forester are blazing on the track, but cross country requires long-distance stamina and due diligence when logging miles. Surely expanding their abilities to meet the cross country demands requires a wild training regimen, right?

"You don't complicate it, you just run," Rothenberger said with a laugh. "Their bodies adapt and they start to figure it out. It's happened so many times. At first, it seems really far...but then they see it's not so bad and figure out they can go faster. It's just a discovery for kids at this age, so that's cool. It's really fun."

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