PELLA — The Pella Christian lost nine seniors from last year’s squad, but third year head coach Mike Buchheit feels good about his team’s chances as they return a lot of numbers on the boys side and welcome a good group of newcomers.

“Given the graduation of nine seniors, this team only returns eight runners that were part of the program in 2019 a year ago, hence a lot of new faces to the program and the possibilities,” Buchheit said. “This roster has the makings of being the largest roster in the past 13 years of cross country at Pella Christian and the team makeup, while young, is the most athletic in my three years as the head coach.”

Returning on the boys side will be senior Brayton Juffer along with Micah DeHaan, Jack Zula, Kyle Gao, William Spencer, Kaden Van Wyngarden, Shaun Oosterheert, Andrew Stysma and Tysen DeVries.

Joining that group will be newcomers Ethan Milligan (senior), Brandt VanderHart (junior) and freshmen Ryan Natelborg and Aaron DeBruin.

Juffer just missed out at a place at state last season after finishing 18th at the qualifying meet, just nine seconds behind the qualifying 15th-place runner. He will look to lead a team that will try to improve upon their sixth place team finish at districts.

On the girls side, Pella Christian will return Jenna Van Maanen, who finished 47th at the state qualifier a year ago. She is the lone returner on the girls side but she will be joined by sophomore Metje Michmirshuizen and freshmen Jaclyn Holmes, Leah Osborn, Savannah Oosterheert and Karis Fikkert.

It will be a smaller squad with just six girls set to run for the Eagles. Most are young so look for them to improve as the season goes on as they will look to improve on their eighth place finish at the state qualifier in 2019.

“Due to the number of runners new to the program, we will be finding ourselves early in the season, but expect to come on strong as the year progresses,” Buchheit said. “Our goal will be to peak for the championship season at the tail end of the year.”

Colin Peters can be reached at 641-672-2581, by email at cpeters@oskyherald.com or on Twitter @ColinPetersOH.

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