GLADSTONE - A larger turnout of cross country runners is making for more competition within the ranks at Gladstone this season.
The Braves have 20 boys and 18 girls this time, which slightly more than doubles last year's 10 boys and eight girls.
"This is definitely one of our better turnouts for girls," said 10th-year coach Gary Whitmer. "This is interesting because in the past it has been pretty much cut and dry who'd be on varsity. We have some competition for varsity spots, which gives us more flexibility. There will be a lot of maneuvering for the first few races."
Freshman Leigha Woelffer emerged as Gladstone's top runner in last Friday's Marquette Relays, where she and sophomore Anna Shier placed sixth among 25 two-person teams.
"After the first meet, it appears Leigha is definitely our standout," said Whitmer. "She enjoys running and is just learning how to race. I think with the miles she put in during the summer, she's ready for the challenge of running varsity cross country."
Freshman Alyssa Polley ran the second fastest leg for the Braves in Marquette, with Shier logging the team's third fastest split. Senior newcomer Alyssa Brown and sophomore Sam Sailer placed fourth and fifth on the list, respectively.
The remaining schedule:
Aug. 29 - at Marquette.
Sept. 4 - at North Central; Sept. 10 - at Kingsford (Iron Mountain); Sept. 14 - at Shawano, Wis.; Sept. 17 - at Menominee; Sept. 21 - at Stephenson (Banat); Sept. 24 - at Munising; Sept. 28 - at Escanaba.
Oct. 3 - Gladstone invitational (at Flat Rock); Oct. 10 -GNC meet at Stephenson (Banat); Oct. 19 - U.P. Finals at Marquette (Harvey).
"I think Alyssa (Brown) surprised everybody in Marquette," said Whitmer.
Also competing for varsity spots are seniors Sadie Strasser, Christine Sharon, Abby Flaminio and Mikayla Depuydt and juniors Josie Gardner and Iris Robare.
"We have a nice bunch of girls," said Whitmer. "Sadie ran hills on Monday and looked real strong and Iris ran well in Marquette."
The Marquette boys and girls were crowned champions last week, with Gladstone runner-up on both ends.
"Marquette looked real strong," said Whitmer. "Anytime you have a school that size, depth becomes a factor. Plus, their girls have Lindsey (Rudden) as their ace in the hole. Their boys are definitely improved from last year. They're definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with."
The Gladstone boys are led by senior Chris Sedenquist, who captured the Upper Peninsula Division 1 400-meter title in track this spring.
"Chris is a quiet, but strong leader," said Whitmer. "He's just a good kid who works hard and leads by example."
Also showing promise are juniors Andrew Olesak, Ryan Hubert, Kurt Schafer and Spencer Pedersen and freshmen Connor Powell and Kyle McKenzie.
"Ryan has been running right with the top kids in practice," said Whitmer. "He's not afraid to work and Spencer has a lot of potential."
Also vying for varsity spots are seniors Chad Parks and James Capidulupo and junior Hunter Curtis.
"We have quite a few freshmen this year," said Whitmer. "Last year we didn't have any. I think this is the highest turnout of freshmen (eight) we've had."