Burrell cross country team adding depth to young program

Monday, September 27, 2021 | 10:10 AM

Chris Legters started the Burrell cross country program six years ago and is excited about the interest developing at the school.

But the interests of 15- to 18-year-olds can be scattered, and that’s a reality with which Legters has become quite familiar.

“I’m very happy with our kids this year,” said Legters, who also coaches distance runners for Burrell’s track team. “Our team keeps growing, little by little. We have 24 members total — boys and girls combined — and keep getting bigger every year.

“They’re very dedicated athletes, and they all worked hard over the summer. That helps make up for the small-school curse that we have, having to share athletes.”

That “curse” involves sharing runners with Burrell’s soccer, band and cheerleading programs.

“It’s tough, because they have to miss workouts to give time to their other activities,” he said. “But they were very dedicated in the offseason — both summer and winter. They’re very good about getting workouts in and getting stronger so that they’re prepared for the rigors of the next season.”

Last year, Burrell shared its top runner, Leah Brockett, with the girls soccer program. But this season, the sophomore who finished 31st at last year’s WPIAL Class 2A championships and set a school record decided to focus on soccer.

That opened the door for others. Coming off a 57th-place finish at last year’s district final, senior Isabella Leger has stepped up in Brockett’s absence.

“She’s just gotten progressively better each year,” Legters said. “She is super dedicated to track and cross country. She’s my go-to source for information about other school’s top runners and things that are happening in the world of track and cross country.

“All of her dedication is paying off. She’s made big, big strides.”

Sophomore Grace Nesko, who is the daughter of Burrell soccer coach Frank Nesko, decided to participate only in cross country instead of splitting time with soccer. Legters believes she soon will break Brockett’s school record.

Kadi Bauer, who has been dealing with a recurring foot injury, is another strong runner for the Bucs.

“We’ve always had one or two girls who are at the top, contending for states at the end of the year,” Legters said. “But now I have a full squad of kids who are doing that. We’re finally developing some depth on the squad, which is nice.”

On the boys side, the Bucs are searching for growth after finishing 27th as a team at the WPIAL championships.

Legters said his kids are on the right track.

“I’m definitely happy with their progression,” he said. “I’ve got a number of boys fighting for the school record. They’re going to be breaking it sometime soon.”

Some of the projected top runners have not participated much yet because of soccer commitments, but Alex Platt has emerged as the team’s fastest runner, despite his commitment to the band.

“He’s been very busy with that, so I don’t see him much,” Legters said. “But he does communicate with me and we get him the workouts, so he gets to complete them on his own. Our kids are very good about that.”

Senior Shane Jablonski has advanced his abilities in the early portions of the season.

Like the girls team, Legters is hoping the depth continues to grow as the boys team approaches its most meaningful competitions.

“We always try to compete as well as we can in the section matches,” he said. “But, sharing so many athletes, it’s often difficult to do that because we don’t know who will be there on meet day.

“But the main focus, for us, is getting kids to compete well at WPIALs at the end of the season, and having them lay down their best time of the year there.”


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