Standouts highlight all-area boys cross country team

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald 2020 All-Area boys cross country team members are front row (from left), Dakota Kuczmarski, Central Heights; Lucas Hassler,  West Franklin; Luke Cotter, Central Heights; Kyle Haner, West Franklin; back row, David Craft, Central Heights; Nathan Hassler, West Franklin; and Zeb Harris, Wellsville. [PHOTO BY GREG MAST/THE OTTAWA HERALD].

Area boys cross country runners stood out for several reasons this fall.

The Ottawa Herald 2020 All-Area boys runners were talented, leaders of their teams and versatile. They came through with top performances on different courses and weather conditions throughout the season.

Here are the members of the all-area team:

Kyle Haner, soph., West Franklin

Haner built on his solid freshman campaign. As a sophomore, he placed in the top four individually in every meet this season. He led the Falcons to the Flint Hills League championship. The Falcons placed in the top three in each regular-season meet.

Haner placed third in the league meet and regional race. He qualified for state for the second time, finishing 35th at state. He was the eighth sophomore to cross the finish line at the state meet. He ran a season personal-best time of 18:46 at the league meet.

Lucas Hassler, fr., West Franklin

Hassler’s first cross country season was a big success. He and Haner gave the Falcons a one-two punch at the top of their lineup.

“Lucas was the surprise of the season for the boys team,” West Franklin coach Ryan Hahn said.

Hassler finished 11th at league, eighth in the regional race and 55th at state. He was ninth freshman finisher at the state meet. He improved his time by 2:36 over the course of the season. He ran a personal-best 18:12 at the league meet.

Nathan Hassler, jr., West Franklin

Hassler’s off-season workouts propelled him to a breakout season.

“Nathan put in a lot of summer training, running several weeks of 50 or more miles,” Hahn said. “He was often the leader of the team’s main pack at the start of the race, coming through the finish as a strong third runner.”

Hassler took 15th at league and 21st in the regional race. He ran a season personal-best time of 18:46 at league.

David Craft, sr., Central Heights

Craft grew into a team leader this season, guiding the Vikings’ return to state for the fifth straight season as a team.

“David started cross country as a seventh grader and has shown as much, or more growth as any runner I have ever coached,” Central Heights cross country coach Troy Prosser said. “His teammates described him as leader and someone they look up to.”

Craft placed in the top 10 of each race this season, concluding with a 26th place finish and lifetime best 17:31 at the state meet and was a part of two state runner-up teams as well as the 2018 state championship team.

Luke Cotter, sr., Central Heights

Cotter was another stalwart for the Vikings. He finished his four-year running career as a member of two state runner-up teams as well as the state championship team.

“Luke will go down as one of the most tactical runners I have ever coached and was a great motivator for his teammates,” Prosser said.

As a senior, he finished in the top 10 in six varsity races and concluded his prep career with a personal-best time if 17:44 while placing 33rd at state.

Dakota Kuczmarski, fr., Central Heights

Kuczmarski gave the Vikings a nice trio of finishers all season.

“As a freshman, Dakota not only cemented his place as one of the leaders and top runners on the team,” Prosser said. “Not only is Dakota a determined runner, he is an excellent kid with a bright future in the sport.”

He set a personal-best time of 18:29 at the state meet (57th place) and finished in the top 12 in seven races this season.

Zeb Harris, sr., Wellsville

Harris had a solid four-year career for the Eagles. This season, he became the team leader.

He medaled in six meets this season. He finished 12th in the Pioneer League race, earning all-league honors. He was 16th at regionals.

“I look forward to coaching him this sprint in track as well,” Eagles coach Tim Savage said.