Next year is also anticipated to be a successful season for the Bulldogs.
Coach Darrel Carstens had many good things to say about the outstanding accomplishments of his teams.
"The boysÕ state title was the result of great team leadership, hard work, years of dedication, and a great desire to be the best. They continually improved their times throughout the season and they believed," said Coach Carstens.
"Jen Hess is a coachÕs dream. She is a great athlete, great student, and great person. She sets high goals and is driven to be her best."
"All State honors to five runners is unheard of at this level. Jen, Brooke (Schmitz), Clayton (Lang), Adam (Utsch), and Dan (Pearson) join an elite group of Paynesville athletes," he added.
On the surface, this season can be recognized by its numerous competitive accomplishments, but the season will be remembered by the runners as being as much fun as all the other seasons, all the way back to their junior high years.
Clayton Lang spoke for every member of the team when he said, "It was an awesome six years, and the best memories of my life."
According to Coach Carstens, this season has been just as much fun for the coaching staff. "The entire season was day after day of fun! This entire group had a good time and worked hard to accomplish big goals. I thank them for all they have given; they are great individuals."
Paynesville unarguably has the best cross country coaches in the state of Minnesota. In addition to being honored with a "Coach of the Year" award for the second year in a row, Coach Carstens was also presented with the "Best Coach In The Entire World Award" by his thankful runners.
Even with all that, Carstens attributes much of the teamÕs success to the valuable assistant coaches, saying, "Coaches (Rick) Houske and (Todd) Spanier are a big part of this fun and successful attitude!"
Seniors Clayton Lang, Adam Utsch, Eric Korman, Travis Flanders, and Ryan FlandersÐdubbed The Paynesville Five by the late Coach Bill OchsÐhave been the heart of this yearÕs team. Their overwhelmingly successful cross country career may be attributed to the powerful bond between them and their teammates, which they have fused over the last six years with the help of coaches.
The girls will lose captain Mellody Veldkamp. Over the last six years she has set an outstanding example of persistence with her near perfect practice attendance.
"The seniors have been a fabulous group and will be greatly missed, not only for their athletic abilities but also their great character," said Carstens.
The sheer depth of the boysÕ team has been a huge factor in this seasonÕs success. This depth should help Paynesville sustain a loss of five senior athletes and still return the following season as top state competitors with the same strength and desire.
The Bulldogs will return three dynamic juniors. Dan Pearson, in only his second season of cross country, has earned All State honors and improved himself to the brink of an elite athlete. In his very first season, Jesse Rien contributed greatly to this yearÕs state champion team, consistently being the teamÕs fourth runner.
Scott Thompson, also in his first season of cross country, was possibly the most persistent runner on the team. He consistently ran times that paralleled those of the varsity runners, and improved steadily with the team all season long.
Three veteran sophomores will also be returning to the team. Riley Flanders has proven his importance to the team through countless outstanding varsity performances. Tom Flannigan has been pushing the pace of the teamÕs top junior varsity runners and will make other competitors shake in their spikes come next season. Fred Stock will also be one to watch next season as he continues his trend of improvement.
Jason Wendroth, Matt Mehr, and Chris Utsch will be next yearÕs freshman class. Expect the three to start turning the heads of fearful competitors.
All boys in grades seven through 12 are welcome to be a part of the fun of next seasonÕs cross country team!
The girls also have a bright year ahead of them. Next season the Bulldogs will have the reigning state champion Jen Hess on their side, in addition to All State runner Brooke Schmitz and Kim Hess, a top ten placer in sections.
"IÕm excited for next year," said Jenny Hess.
Bridgette Johnson, Trisha Wendlandt, and Mesa Frenchick will be returning for more tasty Dog biscuits next season. With added depth, the Bulldogs could be a state competitor as a team.
"There will be great returning runners ready for the challenge next year. I believe the strong tradition will continue," said Coach Carstens.
"Join cross country," Ryan Flanders advised any interested student. "Make friends, get in the best shape of your life, and be a part of the successful Paynesville cross country team. You are welcomed by the entire team to make the best decision of your life!"
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