Like many other sports at the school, Hagerstown cross country had a banner season during the 2012-13 school year.
Now, both the Tiger high school boys and girls squads will try to repeat both Wayne County and Tri-Eastern Conference team titles.
Sixth-year head coach Kent Gray has a solid base of girls returning for this year, led by senior standout Hayley Rogers, who won the county, conference races, Southport Invitational and Connersville sectional races.
The four-year standout had a season-best time of 18:34 last year.
With only Erin Hoodlebrink graduating from last year’s Tiger team, Rogers has plenty of help in Amelia Dick, Sydney Denhart, Joanna Smith and Cassidy Robinson, who missed last season due to an injury.
Karley Hannon, Paige Gray, Gabby Willis and Riley Neal will all push for the final varsity spots.
“We expect to contend for county and TEC titles, and have our sights on a sectional run,” Gray said. “It should be a fun and interesting year.”
On the boys side, the Tigers graduated several runners, including the normal first two finishers, Clay Clark and So Kimoto.
“While we lost some good runners, we have a lot of good talent, and I think we can be as good or better than last year,” Gray said.
There could be as many as 10 boys in the mix for scoring varsity spots.
Setting the pace will likely be sophomore Zach Davis, an all-TEC runner last fall. Then there is senior Tyler Scholl and juniors, Lucas Artman, Craig Oakes and Matthias Ritter.
Mason Stitt is a classmate of Davis, and there are freshmen, Mason Bledsoe, Alec Hicks, Jevon Osborne and Jared Weesner.
Gray sees a lot of potential challengers in the boys TEC race, including recent strong teams such as Union County and Northeastern, while Winchester, Tri and Union City all have key runners back.
At Northeastern, coach Mark Kerkhoff will try to replace several key graduated runners.
For the Knight boys, Eric Yandl moved on to Division I IPFW, and Andy Scripture also graduated. Northeastern had rosters of 11 boys and six girls as the season neared.
Juniors Kessler Fisher and Jacob Austerman, plus sophomore Robert Smith return for the boys team.
“Our team is so young, so unproven, but our kids have really good potential, and I’m excited to see how much they can improve,” Kerkhoff said.
The Knight girls team returns four of the top five runners from last year, but the loss was four-year team leader Ashley Mosley.
However, sophomore Ashley Jay, a regional qualifier, returns plus juniors Taylor Benner and Leah Wogoman, sophomore Hailey Coyle, junior Sarahi Gayton, and first-year senior runner Micheal Marker.
Northeastern runs Tuesday in the Hokum race at Hagerstown High School.
Veteran coach Ron Puckett is back to lead Lincoln cross country and the number of runners is down for the Golden Eagles.
Lincoln’s boys team had only four runners as the days dwindled toward the season’s start. Junior Trevor Gabbard is expected to pace the boys team, coming off a strong track season last spring. Classmate Jesse Newton returns, and freshman Austin Moore joins the high school program.
Connersville transfer Nick Venable is a newcomer, but he did not run for the Spartans.
“I think our team will improve as we go through the season,” Puckett said. “I’m excited to see how well some of our athletic kids can run by the end of the season.”
For the Golden Eagle girls, six runners are expected to compete.
Sophomore Macy Erlewein, senior Elly Bertsch, plus Kelsey Cupp and Lexi Fultz were distance runners for Puckett in track last spring.
All-around athletic standout Kassidy West will run, along with freshman Olivia Bertsch.
After running at Hagerstown on Tuesday, regular-season scoring commences Aug. 28 at the Pendleton Invitational.
Coach Chris Evrard welcomes several new runners to the Bulldogs. New assistant coach Christyn Nelson will help with Centerville’s teams.
“It will be exciting to see which runners are able to step up and fill the varsity spots,” Evrard said.
There are no seniors on the Bulldog teams, as Centerville will be young, like a majority of the area teams this fall.
Leading the young Bulldog teams will be boys junior captain Brandon Dillman. Junior Shelby Short is the captain for the Centerville girls.
There is a new coach, and a diminished number of runners for Union County cross country this fall.
Alan Bell takes the reins for the Patriots, and as preseason workouts progressed, UC had only four boys and three girls running, with no seniors.
All-TEC junior Evan Felton returns on the boys side, and is joined by sophomores Jake Antrim and Isaiah Spencer, plus freshman Dylan Poe.
A number of former runners have elected to play soccer instead this fall, but junior Emily Goecke is back after finishing third in the TEC race last season. She is joined by sophomore Madison Walters and freshman Samantha Crowd.
“The group of kids I’m working with have a great attitude. I really enjoy working with these kids,” Bell said. “We will focus on the individual results of each runner, and try to get Evan (Felton) and Emily (Goecke) to be the best they can be for the big races during the season.”
Bell had helped with both UC’s track and cross country teams in past years.
UC debuts this year at the Richmond High School Invitational on Saturday. This year’s RHS race will be staged on the course at Indiana University East instead of the Earlham College.
“The IU East course is a challenging course, and it is a good measure to see how the kids are running,” Bell said.
Al Williams returns to coach Winchester, with his wife, Missy, moving over from girls golf to serve as co-coach.
The coaches will be working with 10 boys and five girls.
Al Williams previously led the program for an eight-year stretch, and he’s happy to be back.
“I’m really excited to be back coaching, especially now that I’ve retired from teaching,” he said. “It’s good to have my wife help me in doing the job.”
Senior Brandon Edwards lead five returning runners on the boys team. He is joined by junior Jordan Yaryan, senior Alex Green, and sophomores Randy Beer and Todd Solomon.
Junior Sophia Wickersham is back for the girls squad, and is joined by senior Darrian Bradshaw, sophomore Becca Neville, junior Paige Fisher, and first-year runner Christina Casperson.
“I don’t really know where we might stand in the conference race, and against any of the other area teams,” Al Williams. “I just want the kids to work and try to improve.”
Winchester runs first Thursday at the Union Invitational.
Sean Kennedy will lead a Rebel squad of four boys and five girls. Sophomores Aaron Pearson, Cody Brown and Garrett Alka are on the boys team, along with first-year junior runner Chris Keister.
For the girls, semistate qualifier Tess Wise, a junior, sets the pace, and is joined by Mackenzie Bales, Winter Resetar, Natalie Wissel and Morgan Retter. The team runs first at the Monroe Central Invitational.
“Tess is working very hard, and has the potential to have a really great year,” Kennedy said.
Todd Barker has high hopes for his second Cardinal cross country team, which includes seven boys and one outstanding girls runner.
Sarah Hornak is the lone Seton girls runner, and she was eighth at last year’s Connersville sectional race. With seven athletes, this will be the first full Seton boys cross country team in school history.
Sophomore standouts Jacob Stamm and Jack Brenneke pace the boys team, and are joined by returnee Patrick Marsee, plus newcomers Brandon Wetheral, Daniel Reinhardt, Matt Westjohn and Lucas Westjohn.