Scouting report interview with Brebeuf Jesuit Prep head cross country coach Karl Knerr. Their girls squad has a solid group of returnees including 6 sub 21 minute 5K runners led by Kate Ricks (19:19) and Zoe Simmons (19:20). Meanwhile, the boys have two studs up front in Christian Stevens and Alexander Pirkle with sub 16 minute credentials and aim to qualify for the state meet once again as well as improve upon their 8th place finish in Terre Haute.
Q&A Interview with Coach Knerr (Brebeuit Jesuit Prep)
1. How many years have you been coaching high school cross country (and at your current school)?
I've been coaching cross country for what will be my 28th season at Brebeuf Jesuit.
2. What do you attribute as the main reasons for the success of your program?
As you know, it takes a long time to build long term success especially at a small school. It's always great when you have runners with talent, but what's really rewarding is taking athletes that are new to running and help them realize their potential. Here's what I believe has been one of the biggest reasons for our success with both boys and girls. It's been having a consistent transition from cross to winter training, to track, to summer training, to cross. Taking over as head track coach five years ago allows for a more consistent distance program year round.
3. What would be the best way to describe your style and philosophy of coaching and working with high school runners?
It's quite simple, stay up to date with current best practice, surround yourself with outstanding assistant coaches, and love running and our sport. Kids know you care and trust is soon developed, followed by commitment and buy in, which leads to results. We love cross country because of the family feel. We are in it for each other.
4. What are your core beliefs in your training plan and workouts for your cross country squads?
We have multiple phases of training. Being able to differentiate with athletes is key to having an injury free season. When athletes are ready to move from one phrase to the next they transition smoothly. Of course, it's great when your top runners progress together, but patience as a coach is a must. Beginning with the end of the season in mind and backward planning has been a crucial piece for us. This takes a collaborative approach with my assistants. Again, lots of trust.
5. How many runners do you return from your top 7 from a year ago?
We have two of our top three boys back from last season, both with mid 15 potential, they are Christian Stevens and Alex Pirkle. We also have a couple of sophomores, Jack Kovach and Colin Chambers who should have breakout seasons. We are currently looking for number five and will have a good idea after the first month of the season. Our girls have what potentially could be a top 5 team at the state meet if everything goes the way we hope. We have senior leadership with our top runners Katherine Modrall and Mikayla Gallagher, great juniors with Kate Ricks and newcomers Katie O'Donnell and Emily Matta, and super sophomores Zoe Simmons and Kelly Gardner.
6. Who is your projected top 7 heading into the cross country season?
7. Who are your team captains or leaders and what stands out about them as examples for the rest of their teammates?
Christian Stevens, Alex Pirkle, Mikayla Gallagher, and Katherine Modrall will lead our teams this season. Their drive and determination sets them apart and inspires fellow teammates. They work hard each and every day.
8. Who have you been most impressed or surprised with their improvement and/or fitness from their summer training?
I've been most impressed with Christian and Mikayla this summer and early this season. They both attended the prestigious Chuck Koeppen All-Star cross country camp this summer and had impressive weeks with the state's best.
9. Any impactful freshmen or transfers to join the team this season?
Yes! We have a few transfers with junior Emily Matta coming from a top Ohio program, and junior Evan Stella from the Washington DC area. Our freshman have great potential but are still working to find their greatness.
10. What are the top invitational meets that your team will be attending this season?
We are looking forward to the Circle City conference championship meet where our boys are defending champions and our girls were runner up and look to take the championship this season. We also look forward to the Indiana All-Catholic championship where our boys are again the defending champions and our girls look for what promises to be a big championship win. We are also looking for big performances at the prestigious Marion County meet where the boys are the defending champions and girls were runners up.
11. What will be the biggest obstacle or challenge facing your team this season?
Our biggest obstacle is our depth and staying away from impending injury. We need to prepare our kids for a run in the post season and do it without injury. Being a small school, it's imperative that we stay healthy and strong.
12. What will be the biggest reason why your team is successful this season?
Our ability to come together as a team and work toward our team goals.
13. What is a favorite annual or common pre-season workout or run for your team?
This varies as a coaching staff. I personally prefer tempo runs early and often. I believe these help us become tough and strong.
14. What is a favorite annual or common mid-season workout for your team?
Mid season favorite workouts would include progression runs.
15. What is a favorite annual or common championship season or end-of-season workout for your team?
End of season workout favorites include 1000 - 600 repeats/ 400 repeats.
16. What are your top 3 goals for this year's squad?
We believe our teams can make the state finals which isn't easy, so our goals include advancement through what's arguably the toughest road to the state finals with advancement through the Noblesville regional, the Shelbyville semistate, and advancement to the IHSAA state finals.