The Rolla High School cross country team will be sending three newcomers to the Missouri State Championships this weekend.
And RHS coach Don Knapp points out the good part is they're all underclassmen.
Sophomore Dalton Rabenau and junior James Kosbar will represent the Rolla boys and freshman Addy Brow will be in the girls' race at the Class 4 Championships, to be held Saturday at Oak Hills Golf Course in Jefferson City.
The Class 4 boys' race is slated for 11:30 a.m. and the Class 4 girls' race for 12:35 p.m.
The Rolla trio qualified during last week's Section 3 Meet at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton. Brow finished eighth overall at the sectional meet with a time of 19:37 while Rabenau was 18th at sectionals at 16:21 and Kosbar 29th at 16:32.
"It's a very good group," Knapp said. "We're really happy for them. Sending three is a good year...and all are underclassmen, which is great.
"The only disadvantage of being young is they have no experience on that course. Addy has seen it but has no experience on it. But they are prepared; we've already raced a bunch of the good teams and good runners this year."
Brow is following her sister as a state-qualifier. Now-graduated Katie Brow was a state qualifier the previous two years for the Lady Bulldogs.
And although a different type runner than her sister, Addy has been just as effective as a freshman.
That's no surprise to Knapp. Addy Brow set the junior high 2,500-meter record last year at 8:45. And this year the 5,000-meter range hasn't been a problem.
"We knew she would be really good this year," Knapp said. "She had to deal with the longer distance, but we knew how talented she was. And she's already gone beyond all of our expectations. We hoped for all-conference and she took second. We hoped for all-district and she took seventh. Now she was eighth in sectionals. She continues to pleasantly surprise."
"I set my goal (for state); I saw myself getting there," Brow said. "I wasn't confident, though. My times did get better as the season went on, although my sectional (time) was slower than district.
Knapp says Brow's style is good for the state course, and expects her to get better and better there over the next four years.
"She's got more of a kick at the end than Katie did but also can handle the hard, early pace," Knapp said of Addy. "She's a pretty complete runner; she has a lot of strengths as a runner.
"A good race for her is the top 50s. She may be higher than that. She could be one of the highest placing first-year runners we've ever had."
Page 2 of 3 - "I'm hoping to make all-state," Brow said. "If not all-state, then close to it."
Rabenau is in his first year as a cross country runner. He had been a track runner before but began the longer distance training this year.
"The transition was good," Rabenau said. "I kind of expected it to be because of how much I was training over the summer. At the beginning of the year I ask coach if he could train me to get to state."
"He was our No. 1 two-miler in track as a freshman," said Knapp, also the RHS track coach in the spring. "He came in with more experience than James in distance running, so he was very prepared.
"Dalton is more of a pure distance runner. He's got to run his pace all the way."
"Definitely endurance is my strength," he said. "I can't sprint to save my life! Usually at the 800 (meter) mark I start to pick up the pace."
Rabenau hopes to use Saturday's race as a learning experience for possible future state appearances.
"I'd be super happy with all-state," he said. "But since that's probably not going to happen I'll aim for being in the 30s."
"I'd look for him in the 75-to-80 range," Knapp said. "He finished 18th at district and 18th at sectional, so that was quite an improvement there."
Kosbar is another first-time cross country runner to opened eyes around the area. He began running distance events in track as an eighth-grader, but this is the first year for cross country.
"It's been much different, switching from a mile to a 5K," he said. "The change was dramatic.
"Over the summer I started putting in miles and started feeling confident running more than 5K."
And it didn't take long for Kosbar to feel real comfortable on a high school cross country race.
"In our first meet Dalton broke 17 (minutes) and I almost broke 17," he said. "We were behind a state meet runner."
It was not a surprise for Knapp.
"We knew he would be very good," Knapp said of Kosbar. "He ran a lot in the summer and went to a summer cross country camp in Wisconsin. He ran distance events in track, so we knew he could handle cross country.
"He's more of a pace runner than having a big kick. It has been a transition for him, but he's handled it real well."
Knapp has the same state meet goals as he has for Rabenau.
Page 3 of 3 - "I think he can also be somewhere in the top 75-to-80," Knapp said. "He's such a talented runner he could place higher than that."
"I'm not sure what place I'll be," Kosbar said. "I think I'm looking for the good experience."