Pictured is the 2010 Fort Recovery High school girls cross country team. Front row from left are Kendra Brunswick, Abby Huelskamp, Hillary Pottkotter, Alexis Sutter and Claire Wendel. Back row are coach Michelle Stammen, Mariah Koester, Abby May, Samantha Tobe, Brenda Link, Elle Sutter, Christen Wendel, Nicole Heitkamp, Hannah Bihn and assistant coach Jerry Stammen.
Pictured is the 2010 Fort Recovery High school girls cross country team. Front row from left are Kendra Brunswick, Abby Huelskamp, Hillary Pottkotter, Alexis Sutter and Claire Wendel. Back row are coach Michelle Stammen, Mariah Koester, Abby May, Samantha Tobe, Brenda Link, Elle Sutter, Christen Wendel, Nicole Heitkamp, Hannah Bihn and assistant coach Jerry Stammen.
Drive past Ambassador Park and you’ll notice a meandering path cut out of the grass.
The Fort Recovery High School cross country teams have some big goals this year. The girls are hoping to earn another regional berth and have a chance at a trip to the state meet. And the boys believe they will have an opportunity to advance out of the district for the first time in more than a decade.
There is a lot to be excited about in those post-season prospects. But the Indians are also excited about the beginning of their season, and that path mowed in the grass at Ambassador Park.
It’ll be there that Fort Recovery hosts its first home cross country meet in ages — the Mercer County meet — on Monday to open the 2010 campaign.
“I am thrilled,” said second-year coach Michelle Stammen. “I’m really looking forward to hosting it. … I do believe that this is the first time in history that Fort Recovery has hosted the county meet. So the kids are very excited … about having a home meet. This group has never had an opportunity to have a cross country meet at home.”
The Tribe girls are hoping that the home meet will kick off another successful season after advancing to the regional meet a year ago.
The team returns six of the top seven runners from the regional team, including junior Nicole Heitkamp. She led the team at the regional meet and was second on the squad in the district with her time of 21 minutes, 51 seconds.
Other returnees include seniors Alexis Sutter and Abby Huelskamp, juniors Christen Wendel and Mariah Koester and sophomore Samantha Tobe. Sutter was 27th at the district in 23:11, followed by Huelskamp (29th - 23:13) and Wendel (36th - 23:55).
In addition to Tobe, the Indians bring back a second strong sophomore in Abby May. Injuries hampered her freshman season, but she was the Indians’ lead runner at the Fort Loramie Invitational as she finished in 21:55. She also had top 10 finishes in both the Mercer County Meet and the Spencerville Invitational.
Fort Recovery also adds a pair of freshman in Jessica Vogel and Elle Sutter, who have a chance to be varsity contributors. Vogel placed eighth in the Midwest Athletic Conference middle school meet last season, and Sutter was 13th.
“We are hoping to be competitive at regionals, and the seniors especially really want to qualify for state,” said Stammen, whose injury-riddled team was last in the 16-team regional group at Troy last season. “They were disappointed last year at regionals, but they did the very best that they could. And with injuries, there’s nothing you can do about that. But this year our goal is to stay healthy and our goal is to … reach state.”
Fort Recovery’s best regional finish in recent years was a sixth-place finish in 2005. The top four teams from each regional advance to the state finals.
On the boys side, the goal of earning a regional berth is something the Indians have not been able to legitimately strive for in quite some time. While FRHS was a powerhouse in the MAC in the mid-1990s, winning three straight league titles and a state championship in 1996, it has struggled since. There was a even a season in which the Tribe did not field a boys team, but Stammen is hoping the team has turned the corner.
“Last year they had more wins than the year before, in fact, the boys team doubled (from 2008),” she said. “We’d like to double that number again. They’re very strong, and they have lots of ability and potential.”
The Indians’ young runners will be a big key to the team’s success, as the top returning athlete is sophomore Calvin Kaiser. He was the Tribe’s top runner in the MAC Championships and in the district meet (30th - 18:35).
Nathan Fullenkamp, another sophomore, was Fort Recovery’s No. 2 runner at both of those events. And the team also adds a pair of freshmen who placed in the top 10 in the middle school MAC meet last season in Derek Sutter and Joe Gonzalez.
Six of the nine runners on the squad are freshmen or sophomores.
Ryan Heitkamp, who was 44th in the district in 19:29 last season, and Caleb Heitkamp, who did not run in 2009, are the squads two seniors.
“(Ryan Heitkamp) has had a very successful high school career,” said Stammen. “This summer he’s been running some of his 5Ks sub-18 (minutes), which is very, very good, much stronger than he has in the past.”
The hope is that the boys team can break through this year like their female counterparts did in 2005. The girls team earned a regional berth that year after a five-season drought, and have been to the regional in three of the four seasons since.
“They just have to stay focused,” said Stammen. “They have to be determined, and they have to put 100-percent effort into every practice. It comes down to a matter of them believing in themselves that they can do it. .. I know that they can.”