Experience is needed.
The good news for Cathedral High School’s boys cross-country team is that that experience is attainable – and that’s why Jim Nohl feels good about the 2019 season.
Nohl, the Irish boys cross-country coach, said this season’s Irish are talented and capable.
Once they get experience, the results should follow.
“We’ve got the talent,” Nohl said. “We just have to get the experience in terms of races.”
The Irish, who finished a program-best second at the 2018 Indiana High School Athletic Association cross-country state meet, are ranked 20th in the Indiana Association of Track and Cross-Country Coaches state rankings as of early September. Still, Nohl said the talent is there for a high state finish.
“The top four (runners) have the experience,” Nohl said. “They were there last year – and really, the last two years. That’s where all those guys can help. A lot of the guys are top academic athletes. They’re not just running to run; they’re running to achieve. Mentally, they’re out to achieve.”
The Irish are strong and experienced despite the loss from last season of multiple front-line runners, most notably 2018 individual state champion Cole Hocker.
“We lost three guys who are running Division I, and literally the top person in the country from that team,” Nohl said. “We’ll see how it all goes. It’s just a matter of just running and getting used to each other.
“We’ve got to talk them through what they’re going to see because it will be a little bit new because of what the others did prior. It’s not that these guys can’t do it. We just have to show them what to anticipate.”
The Irish this season will be led by a core of experienced runners. Senior Nick Hruskoci, junior Jackson Carlile and senior Joseph Mathioudakis all return after finishing in the Top 100 at the state meet last season. Senior Grant Ferguson also finished in the Top 200 at last year’s state meet, and a slew of underclassmen with potential could contribute and push the top runners.
“Those four guys were in there in the mix last year when we were at state, so they’ve got state experience,” Nohl said. “They have to recognize that they can do it and that’s where they need races so they can recognize that. We have a very good group of kids who ran a lot during the summer and who are good runners and aggressive.
“There’s no stress on these guys this year. Last year there was pressure: ‘You have the top runner and this, that and the other.’’’
Hrusocki qualified for the state meet in the two-mile during last year’s track season, a performance that Nohl said should prepare him for taking over as one of the Irish’s top runners.
“His biggest thing is trying to get some experience in knowing how to run up front like that,” Nohl said.
Rain canceled an early-season race at Rushville at which Nohl expected to get an early feel for the depth and potential of the team, and Nohl said he expects the Irish to race themselves into competitive shape through September.
“It could take us through the end of the month to be in really good shape, but we can make it to state; I’m not too worried about that,” Nohl said. “If we get good enough and everything falls into place, we could be in the top five at state again.
“We need some races. We need the weather to cooperate. All the courses we run are legitimate courses. I don’t go to the flat courses that will throw down really fast times but that don’t parlay into anything. We go to all legitimate courses. I don’t believe in all that stuff.”
What Nohl does believe is that this year’s Irish team has the talent for big success. The Irish in 2016 made the semistate meet but missed advancing to the state final because of what Nohl called a lack of experience. Appearances in the state meet the past two seasons have provided that experience, experience that in turn could lead to another successful season.
“We’ve got that mindset, and that’s a huge thing for anybody – pro, high school, college, whatever,” Nohl said. “You need a mindset that you can achieve at a high level. From what we’ve done in the last few years, it’s a lot easier to do that and to make sure that you’re ready.”