Local prep cross country teams are gearing up for the season, with some competing at the early bird tournaments in the area this week.
When it comes to distance running in Champaign County, it all starts and ends with West Liberty-Salem. The Tigers have been a model of consistency and success for the better part of their history.
The girls’ squad at WL-S will feature returners Reghan Bieleski, Taylor Henault, Lauren Fowler, Sarah Painter, Grace Adams, Lydia Moell and Payton Umphries, along with newcomers Maddie Bahan and Katelyn Stapleton.
Bieleski and Adams were a very potent 1-2 punch for the Tigers last season, while Bahan and Stapleton each excelled at the junior high level.
Anna Louden, Savannah Weaver, Tory Pawelko and Maria Henderson will round out the roster.
“With an experienced group of upperclassmen and two of the top freshmen in the area, we have high expectations for the season. The girls have put in a lot of miles and have also worked hard to develop their strength. Their off-season discipline will pay big dividends for them as the season progresses,” WL-S Girls Coach Ann Vogel said. “This team loves to run and they’re hungry to compete. The team’s top goal is to return to the state meet this year, and they’re focused on doing what it takes to compete with the best teams in Ohio.”
The boys’ squad will be a small group, but will feature returning letterwinners Nick Williams, Isaac Smith, Jordan Lewis and Noah Smith. Newcomers Gavin Harrison, Hayden Kennedy and Ian Maurice will fill out the roster.
“Our first goal is to win the conference for the ninth straight year. Other goals would be to qualify the team to regional for the eighth straight year and to advance either the team or individuals to the state meet,” WL-S Boys Coach Mike Louden said. “We’ve been represented at the D-III state meet seven consecutive years with the entire team in 2011, 2012 and 2013 or at least one individual.”
Nick Williams ran at state last season and was the OHC runner of the year, so he knows what it takes and can lead the others. Noah Smith was an OHC First Team selection, so the Tigers think those two will be the anchors up front.
Mechanicsburg returns an experienced group on both the girls and boys squads, with six out of the seven runners coming back for each.
On the girls’ side, Stephanie Dietrich and Sophie Boeck will lead the way. Following them, Abbey Kramer, Kaitlyn Troth, Zoe Chandler and Gloria Terry will run as a pack, with Grace Rozmus or Isabelle Dietrich rounding out the top seven.
“These girls have shown dedication throughout the summer and have been working well together in these early weeks. They have set their sights high this season. We are looking to get the girls team out to the regional meet this year and hopefully a few individuals to the state meet,” M’burg Coach Joe Montoya said.
On the boys’ side, freshman Josh Spinner will be the lead runner throughout the season, followed up by senior JP Kent. The rest of the team will be a battle between Ethan Kramer, Isaac Bryant, JP Marsh, Dakota Lay and Drake Cary.
“We have a number of returners who could potentially fill those number six and seven spots. I see it varying throughout the season with the competitive spirit of this group. The boys are looking to finish toward the top of the OHC and see a regional qualifier or two,” Montoya said. “This is my first year with the program, but I feel like there has been a shift in the culture and the approach these kids are taking to the season. As long as these groups stick together, work hard, and focus on recovery I think they both have an opportunity to accomplish some great things this year. I am excited to see where this group ends up.”
At Urbana, the boys will feature returning letterwinners Daniel Westcott, Austin Rooney and Noah Booze. Also returning will be Anthony Cordle. Newcomers Gavin Spence, Andrew Basham, James Fannin and Camden Weiss will fill out the roster.
The girls will have a new core featuring junior high girls who were successful last season, including Paige Deere, Makenna Radford, Jenny Zaborowski and Stephanie Selvaggio.
“I am excited for the season and I can’t say enough about our kids. This is our largest group in my six years and that includes junior high,” UHS Coach Mandy Parker said. “We have a great nucleus of student athletes. They have wonderful personalities and love to have fun. We have been working out since the beginning of June and I am seeing improvements from last year.”
Both Graham and Triad failed to respond to requests for information.