Whether as a runner or a coach, Andrew Fick has always loved a challenge.
And as the Astoria cross country program begins another season, the former Astoria runner — now cross country coach — has his wish.
While the Astoria boys are looking to climb back up the Cowapa League ladder, the Lady Fishermen need to replace some key seniors lost to graduation.
“I’m excited for the season,” Fick said. “It seems like we’re set to continue our positive momentum for both the men’s and women’s teams.
“We have good numbers out early on, and our student-athletes have been working hard and have a positive mindset as we start the season.”
The Fishermen had a couple of uncharacteristic lower division finishes in last year’s district meet.
The Astoria boys were fifth out of six teams, just three points ahead of last-place Banks. The Lady Fishermen were third out of four teams.
Banks and Seaside did not have enough girls athletes to score in the team standings last year, and the Cowapa League said farewell to traditional league power Scappoose, now a 5A school.
That leaves the girls’ side with potentially just three full teams.
Fick and the Fishermen are just concerned with rebuilding their own program.
“For the women’s team, we’re looking pretty strong, and we’re feeling hopeful to be a competitive force again this year,” Fick said. “We graduated three of our senior leaders McKenzie (Burnett), Kathy (Perez), and Libbie (Nash), but we’re set to continue to build off an overall solid season.”
As freshmen last year, Sophie Long, Abby Groncki and Emma Roe all finished in the top 20 in the league championship race, and McKenna Long was 25th.
McKenna Long is back for her junior year, while Sophie Long, Groncki and Roe will be three of the Cowapa’s top sophomores.
“We have Ally Pritchard (So.) returning, who has been doing a lot of summer running and is looking really strong,” Fick said. “Lindsay Riutta is an incoming freshman who ran well in middle school and is looking strong early on.”
In addition, “we have several new runners this year, and it will be fun to have that energy as we move forward into the season. Last season we were proud of our accomplishments, like winning a couple of big invitationals, but it was a real challenge not being able to get to state.”
This year, “with Scappoose moving to 5A, that will change things a little, but you never know who’s going to show up. You can count on strong programs in the Cowapa. We’re just going to work hard, have fun and compete at the highest level we can.”
On the boys’ side, Fick said “we have a lot of our runners returning, which will help us be more competitive, as we have more experience and our guys know what it will take to compete in our league.”
Astoria’s top returner is sophomore Nikolai Boisvert, who was 25th out of 39 runners in the district meet.
Out of 14 runners practicing the first week, the Fishermen had just three seniors (Parker Ivanoff, Calvin Kaul and Elias Simmons).
“Everyone seems to be working pretty hard, and there’s going to be competition to get those varsity spots in the big races,” Fick said, “so it will interesting to see how we stack up individually and as team.
“We have lots of room to grow from last year, so I’m excited and I know our guys are excited to see what we can do this year.”