Central cross country team includes seven returners

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Members of the Central cross country team include (front, left to right) Corey Weber, Haley Mueller, Jaydin Dettman, Madylen Gregerson, Hannah Asche, Delaney Scherf, Brayden Finley; (back) Taylor Moser, Allie Mussman, Eva Embretson, Maci Kluesner, Parker Vaughan, McKenna Jaster, Carly Kluesner, Maria Medberry, Hailey Mahoney and coach Mark Bauder. (Photo courtesy of Blaker Photography)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

In 38 years as a coach at Central, 30 for cross country, Mark Bauder has seen a lot, done a lot and experienced decades of change, but this year will be different—perhaps unlike any other he has ever faced. 

It’s not just COVID-19 running alongside the team, invading the tranquility of the run, but also because, for the first time in nearly three decades, the cross country team doesn’t have enough runners for a team score. According to Bauder, that “makes achieving personal best times even harder.” 

Bauder admitted one of the biggest challenges for the program is getting more kids to come out, but for the ones who do, they provide the essence of joy Bauder receives from “watching them believe in the program, in themselves and in succeeding.” 

Long inspired by his father, Bauder, a man of succinct brevity, coaches to “help kids get better through learning how to work to the best of their ability everyday.” Each new season is approached differently, and the ensemble cast of runners dictates the motivational tactics employed. 

Even with a small team, expectations remain optimistic for the boys, with returning runners working hard to improve their times from last year. New runners will hopefully “start to gain confidence,” said Bauder. 

As for the girl’s team, Bauder believes they should be “able to be competitive among the top few teams in the conference and in the area.” 

A successful season would serve a two-prong purpose. First, it would mean team members improved over last year and either achieved or got closer to their goal of winning the conference. Second, a competitive season might also encourage more runners to participate. 

The idea is not out of the realm of possibility, as Bauder discussed the strength of the team. Seven of the 13 members (five girls and two boys) were on the district team last season, so “they have the experience to keep improving.” 

Other than that, the team must deal with the realities of COVID-19, where Bauder suggested social distancing has been the hardest, especially in the weight room. But he also said “the students don’t seem to be affected too much.” 

The most prominent changes are the use of face coverings and the disinfecting of equipment more; otherwise, workouts haven’t changed much. 

Another thing that hasn’t changed is what sports can do. “Sports provide something the whole community can support and enjoy,” Bauder said. 

This united element has led to a very supportive community over the years, despite difficulties mentioned by Bauder, such as the time of meets, and the fact that all but one of the meets are at away locations.

Nevertheless, parents and the school continuously make the effort, year after year. This year, Bauder is simply trying to navigate the new work “as normally as possible with as few distractions as possible,” with high hopes of success. 

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