University of Nebraska Lincoln graduate Karlee Haecker will begin her first head coaching job for the Syracuse-Dunbar-Avoca Rockets cross country team in 2019.
Coach Haecker graduated from the University of Nebraska Lincoln in 2018 with a degree in elementary education and special education.
Haecker showcased her track and volleyball skills at Raymond Central High School.  She was an assistant track and cross country coach at Boone Central in Albion.  
Karlee was also a track and field walk-on at UNL and competed in the 800 and 1,000.  Haecker  ran cross country for a few months during her college experience, but her main focus was track.  
“I understand why kids like to play different sports such as track and volleyball, but I love how cross country sets the kids up for life long fitness,”  Haecker said.
Karlee said it has been a cool experience so far, and that the kids are working hard.  “They want to work hard and what to see their times improve,” Haecker said.  
Coach Haecker has been able to get to know the kids and develop a rapport, especially after practice.  “I feel like our ice baths after practice has been a very good time to get to know them,” Haecker joked.  “Everyday after practice they stand in ice water after running on concrete, so it’s been fun to get to know their personalities.”
Abby Ortiz and Ellie Wilkinson will be back for the Rockets.  In the spring of 2019, Ortiz and Wilkinson helped the Rockets win the Class B Track and Field State title.
This will be the third straight year that Wilkinson sets her sites on making it to Kearney.
In 2017, Wilkinson brought home a second place state medal and ran a time of 19.42.6 in the 5000 meters (3.1 miles).
Last season, Wilkinson did not finish at Kearney due to health concerns, but will be ready to compete as the season draws near. Abby Ortiz was a freshman last year and placed in the middle of the pack in state action.  Ortiz placed 53rd with a time of 22.52.8.
On the boys’ side, Grant and Creighton Orchard are really strong runners with Grant leading the way.  Seth Day and Colton Ray are runners who will look to make an impact as the 2019 season begins.
Syracuse will be at Norris High School to start the season on Saturday, Aug. 31 starting at 9:30 a.m.