NEWELL —  Newell’s cross-country numbers were a bit lower this season, but those returning boasted solid experience.

Irrigators’ head coach Kyle Sanderson cited growth as the most significant aspect of this season. He added two ninth-grade boys (David Kirby and Clint Winkler), plus the girls’ team, showed the most progress.

Team chemistry served as a Newell strength going into the season, Sanderson said. “They support each other and encourage each other to get better,” he added.

Sanderson added team members must work on putting in more off-season work. That allows athletes to build a more solid base going into the campaign.

Rachel Erk (third place), Bethany Mahaffy (11th), Stacy Mahaffy (20th), Natalie Yates (23rd), and Sarah Kirby (27th) helped the Newell girls finish second at the Region 5B meet and qualify as a team for state. Garrett Winkler placed second in the boys’ division at regions to reach state.

Garrett Winkler earned sixth place for the Newell boys at the state B meet. That is the best-ever finish for an Irrigator boys’ runner at state.

Newell placed 13th in the girls’ division team standings at the state Class B meet.

Erk finished 28th for the Irrigator girls’ team. Teammate Bethany Mahaffy placed 51st, followed by Stacy Mahaffy (106th place), Yates (109th), and Sarah Kirby (114th) followed.

Sanderson said the Irrigators knew the climb would be uphill in terms of success of previous seasons. He added the leadership of Garrett Winkler inspired other team members to want to work hard and improve.

“Watching Garrett (Winkler) run at state was definitely one of the highlights of the season,” Sanderson said. “Him getting sixth was just tremendous.”

Other highlights Sanderson cited was Erk transform as what he called “a true racer.” He said she did not back down at the Region 5B meet.

Bethany Mahaffy improved far beyond what was anticipated or hoped for, according to Sanderson. She competed in middle-school races early in the season and placed at the state meet.

Garrett Winkler was the lone senior in the program this season. “He likes to soak up information, does his own learning about running and training,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson added Winkler brought that to practice and led by example.

“I see a lot of potential on our girls’ side,” Sanderson said in looking toward the future. “On the boys’ side, we do have some freshman boys going to be sophomores that I think are going to take some similar steps to Garrett (Winkler).”

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