Noah Wells became the first runner from the combined Elmwood and Plum City high schools cross country cooperative to qualify for the state meet last fall. Even though he was EPC's lone entry, both communities made big a deal of his accomplishment and sent a big contingent to watch him compete in Wisconsin Rapids.
EPC co-coaches Kris Flesberg and Tracy Gilles hoped Wells would be joined by more EPC runners at state in the 2014 season, maybe even a whole team with not only the return of Wells but Andrew Gilles and couple of other returning lettermen.
But that won't be the case as a knee injury suffered during the baseball season has Wells pretty much sidelined this fall.
"It will be 8-10 weeks before he could even start practing again," Flesberg said. "He's still part of our team and still is leader as a senior and it helps a lot. But it's disappointing we won't have him running for much if not all of the season."
Also disappointing to the EPC coaching staff is the fact the girls team has just four runners out in returning letter winners junior Libby Feuker and sophomore Josie Tiffany along with sophomores Kaitlyn Ahlers and Abby Larson. Graduation losses of Heidi Webb, Destinee Barrows and Amber Osteen cut the team in half. Flesberg and Gilles hope to recruit more girls to come out for the sport once school starts. Larson ran last season while Ahlers is a newcomer who ran track this past spring.
Finding and building individual successes would seem to be order of the season for the Wolves but with a solid first meet showing by the boys in the Boyceville Alumni Invitational Thursday, EPC doesn't want to forget team goals either. Both the boys and girls squads finished fifth in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference last season and the boys finished fifth in the Division 3 sectional meet. The program has built itself up to a middle-of-pack position in a tough conference competitively and doesn't want to fall back.
EPC certainly has good individual runners to point out such as Gilles, a senior who, like Wells, was first-team All D-SC in 2013. Tiffany made the second team all-conference and Feuker was honorable mention.
"Andrew and Libby have been running quite a bit this summer and I see an internal drive in both of them which makes them good candidates to qualify for state," Flesberg said. "I think Josie will run stronger as the season progresses."
EPC lost letterman Dylan Shields to graduation Alexander Krashov was an exchange student last fall. Other potential returnees didn't come out thus leaving senior Ben Funk as the only other returning letterman. But EPC has plenty of numbers for a boys team with senior Jake Burke and sophomore Dalton Shields, who both ran last fall, along with senior Travis Joyce, juniors Justin Joyce and Jesse Boltik, sophomore Chad Osteen and freshman Tanner Blanford.
"Andrew will set the pace but Ben will be able to keep up as an experienced runner," Gilles said. "Dalton ran a lot in the summer. Chad ran well in track and both will help us compete team-wise."
In spite of the preseason setbacks, both Flesberg and Gilles hope the EPC cross country crew can keep a positive mindset.
"The kids are excited for the upcoming season and they want to run and they want to compete," Flesberg said. "They want to keep improving their times and hopefully it will all lead to the kind of season we'll able to enjoy as much we did last year."