The 2016 cross country team will have a lot of new faces this season at Rolla as they gear up for their season opener at Lebanon on Monday, Sept. 12. The Bulldogs graduated 10 male runners and four female runners last season, opening the door for a fresh group to take over this season.

The 2016 cross country team will have a lot of new faces this season at Rolla as they gear up for their season opener at Lebanon on Monday, Sept. 12. The Bulldogs graduated 10 male runners and four female runners last season, opening the door for a fresh group to take over this season. 

While many of the school's top runners graduated, they still have a solid, young core to lead the team this season. The boys are returning three senior lettermen this season in Devin Seest, Lucas Marling and Josh Weisenborn. They'll be joined by two new seniors to the squad, Ifeanyi Orizu and transfer Preston Parry. The boys also have a new junior joining the team this season in Brandon Burris, joining fellow juniors Charles Victor and Charlie Roberts. Burris is a varsity letterman in track and decided to take his talents to the cross country team this season. The Bulldogs have a big batch of sophomores this season, several of which are returning varsity lettermen. Alex Frisbee, Tristan Lietz, Tanner Mertens, Johnnie Swizdor and Wyatt Owens are all returning to the varsity level, while Westley Sutton and Kaleb Chiles will be new to the varsity level. Head coach Don Knapp, he has a good group of 10 runners in Seest, Marling, Weisenborn, Roberts, Victor, Burris, Frisbee, Owens, Lietz and freshman Noah Crutcher. Those 10 runners will rotate into a solid seven runner varsity squad later in the fall. 

For the girls, they'll have some great leadership in Addy Brow. Brow has had some injury problems in the past two seasons, but she has experience at the State Cross Country Meet and should be able to return to that level, while helping some other runners join her. Brow is joined by fellow seniors Kelly Dupes, Audrey Woods, Morgan Phenix, Theresa Lauer and new cross country runner Olivia Gonzalez. The Lady Bulldogs will also have a returning junior in Krista Hilmas and returning sophomores Genevieve Wilson, Carmen Phenix, and Olivia Holmes. Freshman Emma Puetz has also shown that she deserves a shot to be in the varsity rotation in the fall. According to Knapp, health will be the most important thing for the girls.

"Staying healthy will be a key to the girls having success in 2016," said coach Knapp. "Addy Brow has been held back by injuries the past two seasons at the State level meets late in the season and three of the main varsity group are currently dealing with either leg or ankle injuries."

While expectations may not be quite as high as last season, coach Knapp thinks this team will do well this season. They open up at the Richard Clark Invitational at Lebanon and will quickly head back to Lebanon for the Lebanon Invitational on Sept. 12. One of the meets they're most looking forward to is their sole home tournament, the Rolla Invitational at Lions Club Park on Sept. 22.