With a new coach at helm, the Swanton cross country teams will look to improve on the 2019 season. Andy Artiaga takes over as head coach for the Bulldogs, who finished seventh in the boys 2019 NWOAL championship and did not have enough girls for a team score.
The boys team will have four returning letter winners and several runners from last year’s junior high team.
“Although this is my first year coaching the high school team, a majority of these runners I coached in junior high, so they are familiar with my system and expectations,” said Artiaga. “We have a larger boys team than previous seasons and competition will be fierce for varsity spots. Our incoming freshman class experienced success in junior high, finishing top 3 as a team at the JH NWOAL championships in 2018-2019.”
Leading the returnees is sophomore Abel Carman, who placed 34th at the league meet last season. Also back are senior Tyler Boyd, senior Blake Szalapski, and junior Joe Sarvo.
Freshmen looking to make an impact include Santana Serratos, Devin Nijakowski, Brandon Robledo, Owen Hansen, and Andrew Matheny.
“I am excited to see how our incoming freshman class competes with the upperclassmen,” said Artiaga, who previously coached Ottawa Hills to a league title. “Having a youth movement, coming from a place of success, should lift the entire boys program.”
Despite that, experience will be a weakness for the Bulldogs.
“We are very young with over half the team being freshmen,” Artiaga said. “Getting freshmen acclimated to running longer distances will be an obstacle. Building confidence amongst the team after coming off a last place finish at the NWOAL championships in 2019 will be a key issue.”
The speed at which the freshmen adapt to varsity cross country will determine if the team can move up the standings, he added.
The girls team has one returning letter winner and at this point does not have enough runners to field a full team. Sophomore Ellie Hartford is back for Swanton.
Freshmen Jade Carman and Emma Crow are newcomers to the team.
“We simply do not have the numbers to have active competition between the runners during training,” said Artiaga.
He said they do have some runners who could do well individually.
“We hope to add another runner so we are able to score as a team,” said Artiaga. “I think we can have some all-league performers.”