This past season, the Golden Gales girls cross country team was surrounded by questions.
How would it rebound from losing its top runner? What would new coach Theresa Tripp bring to the team? How competitive could the young roster be?
A year later, only one question remains: How much better can Lancaster’s girls be?
The Gales finished sixth in the competitive Central District in 2013, sending two individuals to the regional meet and one to state. This year, Lancaster returns every varsity runner from the 2013 campaign.
“It is very exciting,” Tripp said. “We had a very young team last year. To have everybody back is very exciting, and they’ve been working very hard.”
Leading the Gales will be sophomore Dasia Burgess, who finished 47th at the state meet as a freshman, and senior Savannah McCray, who placed 33rd at 2013’s regional meet. Seniors Audrey Tobin and Cecily Stasel, juniors Ariana Taylor and Emily Thompson and sophomore Heather Walker complete the returning varsity runners.
With all seven returning, chemistry should be a strength for Lancaster, which cemented their bond with its first team camp in recent seasons. The Gales spent a week training at Old Man’s Cave at Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, something no member of the current team had experienced.
“We all got to do runs together and had team things,” McCray said. “We made goals as a team. It was a good experience.”
First among those goals is a team trip to the regional meet. The Gales were 63 points behind fourth-place Pickerington Central at the district meet this past season, and Lancaster has not advanced further than that since a 15th-place finish at regionals in 2006.
McCray thinks that the regional drought will end this year.
“I think we can make it to regionals,” she said. “That’s a goal we can definitely reach.
“For that to happen, everyone needs to stay healthy,” she continued. “I think if everyone keeps up how they are training and we stay united as a team, we’ll be good.”
The team had the lead pack to reach regionals in 2013 with Burgess finishing 10th and McCray 13th at the district meet. With another year of training, the back end of the varsity roster should be prepared to push the Gales over the top.
“Since the team is really young and everyone is retuning, I think we are going to be really good,” McCray said. “I’m excited for this season just to see what we will be able to do.”