HYDE — After longtime Clearfield cross country coach Todd Winters stepped down after last season to take over the girls soccer team, the Bison thinclads were in need of a new leader.
Enter Jacob Pistner, the woodworking teacher at Clearfield High School, who has been grooming for the role the past few season under Winters.
“I originally had started running for general fitness and health when I became a teacher,” Pistner said. “Prior to that I worked in landscaping and asphalt paving. I was convinced to coach by John Jacob when he originally had to give up the position and turn the program over to Todd Winters. I thought helping out a couple of friends would be a good thing to do and it looked like an interesting opportunity to get to know more students at the school.
“I was the assistant to Coach Winters for three years after that. In that time we looked at a lot of coaching strategies, worked with a great group of kids and I learned a ton about racing versus running for health.
“Because of both of these great previous coaches I actively race and compete on my own. When Todd made the change from cross country to soccer I think I knew I had to be the head coach because he knew it would be in good hands. I liked how we ran the program together and picking Eric Yingling up as assistant was a natural choice and smooth transition. Eric previously worked with us as a volunteer and has a great knack for working with our athletes.”
Pistner and Yingling don’t have a lot of athletes on the squad, but they do have an experienced group of seven letterwinners to build around.
“My small group of letterwinners are all around great kids and talented athletes,” Pistner said. “They lead my team and work hard to create a sense of family among the younger kids. Any coach would be excited to have these guys and girls as a part of their leadership, so as you could imagine I’m ecstatic.”
The letterwinners, which include Herschel Johnson, Isaac Swanson and Jeremiah Vezza for the boys and Avry Grumblatt, Abby LaBorde, Emily Shipley and Ashley Struble for the girls, have their work cut out for them this season as they need to either fill roles vacated by the departed senior class or help groom the rest of the team to take the next step up.
“We took a big hit last year with graduating eight seniors,” Pistner said. “On paper a team of 16 looks small but with 9 boys and 7 girls we have what we need to win races and be competitive in our league and district.
“We are looking to good health and lots of motivation from the athletes to do so. Our small group keeps it fun and interesting as I think they truly enjoy the sport. Right now we are excited to see what all our newcomers do, especially Tyler Olson who is a very talented freshmen that could be with us for several years.”
While winning as many meets as possible and doing well in any invites they run in, the goals for the team are not as much about wins and losses and more about improvement and promoting a team atmosphere.
“We need to always look to improve as athletes and create a sense of family within the team,” Pistner said. “Our runners work hard for each other and I think that will create success.
“Our girls are always a force in the Mountain League and I hope to continue that tradition, and my boys are looking to stay competitive and try to finish strong in the Mountain League and be ready for the district. I have felt for the last few years they are in the running for the district but with the loss of some of our senior runners, there are some really big shoes to fill.”
As for individuals with high aspirations for the postseason, Pistner says several of his athletes could make noise long after the regular season has concluded.
“I would say that I feel Jeremiah Vezza is constantly improving and working hard for success in the sport. Abby LaBorde has high hopes for districts this year and bigger goals that we hope to attain.
“And I am exited to see improvement in the runners across the board like Issac Swanson, who went to states last year and Avry Grumblatt, who is eager to get her shot at states.”
Clearfield begins its season Saturday at the Big Valley Invitational.
Dylan Carfley, *Herschel Johnson, Robert Kear, *Isaac Swanson, *Jeremiah Vezza.
Will Brickley, Tyler Olson.
*Abby LaBorde, *Ashley Struble.
*Avry Grumblatt, *Emily Shipley.
Alycia Edwards, Abby McCracken, Amanda McCracken.
1—at Big Valley Cross Country Run (Indian Valley Elementary School), 9 a.m.; 11—Bald Eagle Area; 15—at Bradford Invitational, 9:30 a.m.; 18—Central/Tyrone; 25—at Penns Valley Tri-Meet with Bellefonte.
2—at Philipsburg-Osceola; 6—at Ridgway Invitational, 10 a.m.; 9—Hollidaysburg; 17—at Mountain League Championships (Penns Valley High School).
Meets begin at 4 p.n. unless noted.