By Marty Farmer
Coming into the school year, Blair Jensen had never coached any high school team. Despite her lack of experience, the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls cross country coach has flourished, courtesy of a stacked roster.
"The top seven are back from last year," Jensen said. "The team is looking good so far this year due to the experience of running together for a second year.
"Last year, the girls went to state and gained a lot of experience running in important races like regionals, sectionals and state. This helped them with the knowledge that they can be competitive in the big races."
With Jensen still settling in as a first-year coach, the learning curve has been accelerated due to the depth of the program. RBHS has 37 runners, with 13 returning from 2016. The program includes 13 seniors, eight juniors, five sophomores and 11 freshmen.
Assistant coaches Danielle Delzotti and Armando Venegas have helped Jansen as well.
"The girls have a good competitive nature to them," Jensen said. "They really like each other, but realize they need to train smart and hard. They truly encourage each other as individuals and as a team to improve."
Junior Tara Janney leads the Bulldogs in best times this year. She's a hard worker who continues to get better. At the state tournament last year, she had a personal record of 18 minutes, 31 seconds.
Senior Hailey Jurgens and junior Nadia Kacmarz have traded off finishing second and third at races.
"Hailey's times are similar to last year which we very good," Jensen said. "She is a very positive member of our team. Nadia is consistently running 20-30 seconds faster this year compared to last season."
Juniors Cora Lutes, Niela Callanan, Melissa Oliveira-Liz and senior Emma Forberg and have ran well all season.
Sophomore Emma Fortman and freshmen Tess Bruno and Viktoria Hanson represent a bright future with the Bulldogs.
With the postseason rapidly approaching, the Bulldogs have their goals in order: win conference, regional, sectional titles and post a top 10 finish at the state tournament.
"Reaching our goals depends largely on our runners being healthy when the state series starts through November 4," Jensen said. "All we can do is train smart and do our best. There is no controlling the other teams. I am impressed with the end of this team's attitude toward training. They understand that smart, hard training is essential to a successful season."