Aiden Housman returns as not only Wapello's top runner, but as one of the top returning runners in the state.

Last season Housman finished ninth place at the Class 1A Iowa City district meet with a time of 17 minutes, 56 seconds for 5,000 meters. At state, his second time competing there, he took 39th but improved his time to 17:28.8.

"I have high hopes for the boys' team this year led by returning state-qualifier Housman," Wapello head coach Micah Peck said. "Christopher Ewart, Grifin Schoonover and Tristin Kauffman are looking especially strong so far this year and with Brian Redmond returning from boot camp ... he should be ready to compete when it matters.”

The girls might lack the returning firepower of the boys, but they have their own set of high hopes.

Mostly, though, the girls team would just like to make it through the season in tact, something they weren't lucky enough to have happen last season.

“With the addition of freshman Madi Lundvall and Torrie Walker, we are looking forward to competing as a team the entire season," Peck said. "If we can keep Eryka Dickey healthy the entire season and have Evelyn Peck get into shape, I have a good feeling that we will have a rewarding season as a team."

Columbus led by a sophomore: Isaac Acosta returns after placing 13th at the conference meet last season out of a 99-person field.

The Wildcats are optimistic that the 2019 version of Acosta — and the team — will be better yet.

“(Isaac) has gotten better,” head coach Steve Riley said. “Then following him ... we believe that our boys will have a competitive team."

And they have no reason to believe otherwise as the Wildcat boys took 11th at their state quantifying meet, despite being led by Acosta, who was then still just a freshman.

That group consists of Freddy Vergara, Mason Hills-Carrier, Garrett Palmer and Jesus Medrano. Medrano is a senior who did not run cross country last year but showed some promise as an underclassman.

The Columbus girls, conversely, are largely unproven, especially behind top returnees Esther Lian and Juvixsa Valdez.

“Our girls have the potential to be a good team in a year or two,” Riley said. “This will be a learning and growing season for them.”

L-M lays foundation for future: The Falcon girls cross country may not have placed as high as they would have liked last season but they saw plenty of personal bests happen late in the season.

Given how young the team is, that's very encouraging for the Falcons, but it's still a process.

The girls team will be led by a trio of sophomores in Ashlyn McKenzie, Abby Kemper and Brelynn Randall.

"This is a building year with many underclassmen," head coach Calvin Simmons said. "Many sophomores coming in will take a while to re-condition to the longer 5K race distance."

So for both the boys and girls teams, managing expectations is important. They'd also like to take a broader approach to this season.

Like the girls, the boys have a group of sophomores and juniors that will be among their top competitors this season.

After senior Eddie Wilhelm, the Falcons have junior Paul Hoopes coming back along with a slew of sophomores in Jacob Back, Evan Lawrence, Zach Robertson and Owen Schreiner.

As to what the overarching goal is for this season, Simmons replied, "(to) build our team in strength and depth."

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