JosiahWittenberg

Josiah Wittenberg is a sophomore who returns with experience from the state meet.

After missing out on the state meet in 2017, the Pella High Little Dutch varsity cross country team finished the season in 2018 on familiar ground.

The Dutch placed fifth at the Class 3A State Meet in Fort Dodge. The Dutchmen were third in the Little Hawkeye Conference and second at the State Qualifying Meet.

Prior to missing out on state in 2017, the Dutch had a run of placing among the top six in 3A at State in each of the past 10 seasons.

Five letter winners return to the Dutch lineup in 2019. The list includes seniors Thomas Gaul and Mason Johnston, junior Braden Rowe and sophomores Cutler Turner and Josiah Wittenberg.

The strength of the 2019 Pella squad according to veteran coach Doug Cutler, “As one of the youngest teams in the State last season we finished in 5th place at the State Championships. The boys have great depth, high enthusiasm and I have had few groups who appear to support and celebrate each other’s success as much as this team appears to.”

As far as the weakness of the 2019 squad or concerns, “The only weakness this team must avoid is focusing on future aspirations and not putting in the work that it takes to reach them. If we can take each step as it’s presented, we can reach great heights, but there are no shortcuts. We have to put in the work,” Cutler commented.

In looking at any young athletes, who might make and impact with the team, Cutler said, “We have a number of upper classroom who have excelled in other activities who are trying cross country for the first time. They bring a level of expectation to our team’s work ethic that is having an immediate impact. We also have a number of talented freshman. Our Varsity team will be tough to crack into this season. Regardless many newcomers are going to contribute either on the Varsity or the upper Junior Varsity ranks making the entire team more competitive internally and externally.”

The Little Hawkeye Conference is normally very talented in the sport of cross country teams and athletes.

Cutler looks for Indianola and Dallas Center-Grimes to be very strong. He added, “Grinnell and Oskaloosa are sure to reload well and Newton could be a surprise this season if their young group improves. The Little Hawkeye Conference will be as strong as ever. We look forward to measuring ourselves against such good programs.”

Key losses from the 2018 Pella team include Drew Van Hauen and Jordan Buma, who have graduated.

Cutler is starting his 15th season as the head coach at Pella.

In closing he stated, “Based on our strong finish last season, the work I have witnessed the past months leading up to this season and the incredibly supportive attitude these young men have for each other, I believe we will be a competitive team at both the Conference and State levels this season.”

Perry Bell can be reached at sports@journalexpress.net or by calling the Knoxville newsroom at 641-842-2155.

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