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2017 State Cross Country

Wes Ferguson, right, of Fremont High School and Bellevue East’s Pierce Pennell head to the finish line during last year's state cross country meet at the Kearney Country Club. Ferguson returns for the Tigers in 2018. 

While Fremont High School is flattered to be No. 1 in the Class A boys’ preseason cross country rankings, the Tigers are just taking the recognition in stride.

“It is nice to be ranked No. 1 and it has happened to us many times over the years,” Fremont coach Sean McMahon said. “But it is really just business as usual for us. We’re not paying much attention to it. The kids are just excited to go out and race this week.”

Fremont opens its season Friday night at the Augustana Twilight Meet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Traditionally, the Tigers have started their season at the Nebraska Wesleyan Invitational in Lincoln, but event organizers notified McMahon in the spring that they were ending the meet.

“The Augustana coaches had contacted us before,” he said. “It is a nice regional competition with a lot of teams from Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and one or two from Minnesota. It is not necessarily the best of the best from those states, but it is still a big meet.”

The Tigers finished third — just two points behind runner-up Lincoln Southwest — at the Class A state cross country meet in 2017. While CJ Martinez (11th overall) and three other seniors from that team graduated, firepower isn’t lacking for FHS.

Senior Jose Gonzalez returns after placing sixth last year. Also back are seniors Wes Ferguson (19th) and Ben Schulz (35th). Ferguson was the all-class gold medalist in the 800 meters during the state track meet in May.

“Wes and Jose are big-meet racers and Ben has been healthy all summer,” McMahon said. “He is running strong.”

Gonzalez’s training was disrupted a bit this summer when he suffered a sprained ankle on two different occasions, but he is expected to be among the state’s elite again this fall.

“It was just a fluke deal and nothing long term,” McMahon said. “He has been handling the workouts well and each week he is ahead of where he was the previous week. He had a great time trial last week for us.”

Ferguson also suffered a sprained ankle during the summer, but is set for his final season.

“He loves to compete and he loves those races that come down to the end of who has the most left,” McMahon said. “He has quality endurance and loves to kick. I think both Wes and Jose, from meet to meet, will have an upward trajectory and will just get better.”

Ferguson, Gonzalez and Schulz are just part of a talented senior class that also includes Edmund England, Reed Johannsen, Matthew Klein, Ross McMahon and Trevor Synovec.

“Edmund is off to a great start,” Coach McMahon said. “He has really closed the gap and is running right there with Ben, Wes and Owen (Wagner).”

Wagner, a sophomore, was impressive during his first season of prep competition.

“He is a rock steady sophomore varsity runner,” McMahon said. “He can take a training load beyond his years and still handle it well.”

McMahon is a state track qualifier in the high jump. Synovec also high jumps in the spring, but both have displayed their versatility.

“They put in a good summer, especially Trevor,” Coach McMahon said. “Ross has shown flashes of being a very good distance runner. He just doesn’t get to do it year-round because of his other track talents. Those two are probably ahead of where we thought they’d be.”

Juniors Max Brown, Turner Blick and Kyle Camenzind have been leaders for their class while sophomores Zac McGeorge and Tristan Thurlow have shown potential.

The Tigers also boast a deep freshman class that is led by Carter Waters.

“He competed well in the Junior Olympic state and regional meets over the summer,” McMahon said. “To watch him, you don’t believe he is a freshman. He handles himself like a junior or senior.”

Other freshmen that have promising futures include: Braden Taylor, Tyson Baker, Nolan Miller and Aaron Ladd.

“Those four and Carter are ahead of where the majority of freshmen are typically at,” McMahon said.

Defending champion Papillion-La Vista South is No. 2 in the ratings while Southwest is third. McMahon said Omaha Creighton Prep and Millard West will also be in the hunt while Omaha Burke and Omaha Central both return young talent.

“It is nice being noticed as No. 1, but that is of no concern because we know where we need to be in Ocober and the kind of depth that we need to be in the hunt,” McMahon said. “The pieces are all there. We just want to stay healthy and enjoy the process together.”

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