Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Jamie Kasza is shown during Thursday's Fonda-Fultonville cross country practice in Fonda.
Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Dylan DeSorbo, left, Jason Klotz, center, and Dan Westman are shown during Thursday's Fonda-Fultonville cross country practice in Fonda.
Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Lydia Brown, left, and Kacie Hunter are shown during Thursday's Fonda-Fultonville cross country practice in Fonda.
By MICHAEL KELLY
FONDA -- They are low on numbers, but the Fonda-Fultonville boys and girls cross country teams are not lacking for talent.
Head coach Mark Therrien's Braves have three scorers back from the 2013 Section II Class C championship meet, in which F-F finished in third place; meanwhile, his Lady Braves have a collection of promising talent, including junior Jamie Kasza, the 2012 Section II Class C champion.
And, the Braves and Lady Braves will not need to wait long for their first action of the 2014 season. F-F plays host to the Fonda-Fultonville Invitational Saturday morning on the school's campus.
"We're feeling pretty ready for it," F-F senior Dan Westman said at Thursday's practice.
For the Braves, Saturday's action will be a first attempt at figuring out how to round out their lineup. Westman and fellow senior Dylan DeSorbo will lead the Braves this season, while junior Damian Freeman will push the duo.
"We're all pushing each other at practice," said Westman. "Every time you run by someone, it's 'Good job, good job.' It's a friendly environment, which is conducive to running."
The Braves' challenge for 2014 will be figuring out the rest of their top five for the postseason. Rookie senior Jared Stearns, sophomore Clane Newcomer and senior Jason Klotz are all vying for those final spots.
DeSorbo said the squad is not looking to have all the answers too quickly, and especially not after only Saturday's competition.
"We'll wait and see, I think," he said. "It's hard to tell at this point. We have a lot of guys back from last year, but it's hard to see what our talent level is yet."
While the Braves have designs on making a run at a sectional title, each of the four Lady Braves are looking for self-improvement this fall sports season, as the squad will not be able to score at team events because it does not have five runners.
Thus, youngsters such as freshman Kacie Hunter, sophomore Lydia Brown and freshman Hailie LaPratt are all seeking to better themselves for the upcoming track and field season.
"Basically," said Therrien, "we're trying to get them to run cross country to get in shape for track. We're not expecting them to be stars in cross country -- at least not yet for this year."
And, while the potential is there for Kasza, the junior is looking to use this season as a way to jump back into the sport. After posting a dominant sectional championship win as an individual in 2012, Kasza went through an injury-plagued 2013 that ended with her not able to compete at cross country sectionals or in the following track and field campaigns.
"She's starting fresh," said Therrien. "She's running to have some fun. She realizes she's not at the level she was at, but she's not holding that against herself, either."
Therrien said he was pleased to have Kasza back with the F-F squad, and the junior shares that excitement. She said she has not set any goals for times or places for this season, and wants to use Saturday's invitational to see where her starting point is for this wave of her career.
"I just want to finish (Saturday's race) and see where I'm at," she said. "I just took a whole year off from running, so it will be nice to see where I place."
Therrien said at least 11 teams will compete Saturday in Fonda. The invitational is the first of the Section II season, and the coach said his squad's preseason has been aimed toward making sure the first race of the year is a completed one.
"The big thing is to get them ready for the first meet," he said. "Then, after the first one, we can see where we're at and determine what we have to do differently."
DeSorbo said the athletes in the program all have the same goal for Saturday's competition -- and every race after.
"I'd like to start strong and finish strong," he said. "But that's the same at the beginning of the season or the end."
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