Generous amount of returning talent to propel Mehlville boys’ cross country team

Experience will be big factor this season

The Mehlville High School boys cross country team has the potential for a big year in 2013, says first-year head coach Mark Ehlen. Bill Milligan photo

The Mehlville High School boys’ cross country team has the potential for a big year in 2013, says first-year head coach Mark Ehlen. Bill Milligan photo

By Robert Chalupny

With a generous amount of returning talent, optimism is at an all-time high surrounding the Mehlville Senior High School boys’ cross country team.

First-year head coach Mark Ehlen says this could be a very strong group that has the potential for a big year.

“I have high expectations for them,” he told the Call. “We will be competitive in every meet. That’s the level of expectation I have for them. We have eight seniors and four of the eight will definitely be competitive.

“So I’ll be looking for that fifth, sixth and seventh man from a team perspective.”

The Panthers return their state qualifier from last year, Nick Bewen, along with sectional qualifiers Trey Pratt and Caleb Heiney and Kyle Downey, who looks to be strong this year.

The squad’s biggest strength, according to Ehlen, is leadership from his veteran runners. “I think the strength with the boys is that I have eight seniors. I have a lot of leadership and experience with the boys. The challenge is to mesh the freshmen with the seniors, learning how to mesh the older guys with the younger guys,” he said.

While the runners are excited about the new season, they haven’t forgotten about last season and what they can learn from their experience.

“Experience, it’s the biggest thing,” Ehlen said. They’ve been there before, especially Nick (Bewen). We really are going to rely on him to take the lead in terms of what it takes to get to state.

“I think the other big thing that they learned last year, and I’m going to help them with that, is staying healthy.”

Ehlen said he is humbled and grateful for the opportunity he has now as the head coach for both the boys’ and girls’ teams at Mehlville.

“I’m ecstatic about being part of the Mehlville cross country program,” he said. “This is something I’ve dreamed about in terms of coaching and making a career change, and seeing a real value in what I learned over the years as a runner and being able to give back in the setting of being a coach.

“I’m going to wait until the end of the first year and evaluate where I want to go with the program the next three to five years, but I want to be able to go to every meet and be competitive and have the other teams to know that.”