Strides were made in 2021 – significant ones.
A young Cathedral High School boys cross-country team improved as the season continued during the fall of 2021, adjusting to a new coach – and some new approaches.
Most importantly, a foundation was laid for the future.
All of which meant Irish boys cross-country coach Jason Moyars – in his first season in the position after 22 seasons as an assistant – liked how he felt about a young, improving program when the ’21 season ended.
“We got better as the year went on – we were more competitive,” Moyars said.
The Irish, long one of the top cross-country programs in Central Indiana who lost seven of their Top 12 runners from 2020 due to graduation, finished sixth in the 2021 Section 20 meet with 147 points behind Brebeuf Jesuit (45), North Central (70), Bishop Chatard (73), Lawrence North (123) and Heritage Christian (140). They missed by one spot qualifying for the regional meet.
The sectional meet capped a stretch late in the season during which the Irish improved and matured steadily.
“They started to see the big picture the last two or three meets of the season,” Moyars said. “We weren’t exactly where we thought that we could be. I’ll take some of that blame on myself for not pushing the kids a little bit harder.
“With a very young team, I wanted to make sure that we stayed injury-free – which we did all season. I would rather be injury-free than have a lot of injuries and be a supercompetitive team but have a lot of kids wearing boots and other things.”
Junior Liam Eifert finished third at the sectional meet in 16:31.9, with senior Jack Wajda 22nd in 17:43.4, sophomore Joshua Castor 33rd in 18:11.7, freshman Aidan Cunningham 40th in 18:30.5, senior Carson Hruskoci 49th in 19:04.4, senior Sean Delaney 53rd in 19:18.8 and sophomore Alejandro Lozano 54th in 19:25.0. Eifert, Wadja and Castor all qualified for the regional meet.
Eifert finished ninth at the Region 10 meet at Noblesville in 16:09.6, with Wajda finishing 36th in 17:03.5 and Castor finishing 52nd in 17:34.8. Eifert finished 17th at the semi-state meet at Shelbyville in 16:02.00 and finished 96th at the state meet at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute in 16:53.0.
Eifert was the Irish’s top runner throughout the season, assuming one of the team’s leadership roles. Wajda also was a leader, with Castor transferring from Chatard in the offseason and acclimating quickly to the team.
Cunningham improved by “leaps and bounds,” Moyars said, emerging as one of the faster freshman runners in Marion County. Hrusocki, a lacrosse player, also held a leadership role as did Delaney, Jacob Leon, first-year senior Cole Brewer and senior/swimmer Nolan Clark.
A team highlight came at the October 3 State Preview NIKE XK Town Twilight cross-country meet in Terre Haute, where 22 of 28 Cathedral boys runners set personal bests. The Irish’s top seven runners had personal bests compared to the week before.
“There was an adjustment period with myself and the runners,” Moyars said. “We kept the same system we’ve been running, but I made a couple of different adjustments to that system. I believe – and feel the kids feel the same way – that we progressed relatively well through the season.”
Moyar said the result of that adjustment was not only a team improving at the end of the season, but one looking forward to what could be a bright future.
“We can set some loftier goals next year,” Moyars said of a program that started strong in terms of participation in ‘21 – near its usual roster size of around 30 runners. “I set some pretty lofty goals last year, which we did not achieve. The coaching staff, it was little different program. The kids excelled in it. The foundation is built for a very successful years to come with the athletes we have.
“We are a very young and inexperienced team. Summer conditioning will be key for next season. The future looks good and bright as long as we continue working hard.”