It would be hard to top the kind of season Wilson Memorial’s boys cross country team had in 2015.
Even so, the Green Hornets, who last season won the Conference 36 title, placed third in Region 2A East and finished fifth in Group 2A, plan to do everything they can to make that happen in what should be another competitive season for the Shenandoah District teams.
Wilson, along with Buffalo Gap and Stuarts Draft, are preparing for their final season in Conference 36, while Riverheads is prepping for its final Conference 44 campaign. Next year, they return to district competition.
Head coach Steve Geiman was quite pleased with his team’s finish at the state meet, but his runners weren’t. “They thought they could have done better,” Geiman said.
Judging from the way they got ready for this season, the Hornets are determined to make that happen.
“They ran together all summer and they were at the school at 8 a.m. every day before the school year began,” Geiman said. “They’re a goal-oriented group and they’ve pushed hard to improve.”
One of those goals is to lower the average time of their top five at the state meet. Last year, it was 17:38 and they want to lower it to 17:20.
“That would put us in second behind Maggie Walker,” Geiman said. “That would be a great accomplishment.”
Working to make that happen is a strong top five made up of sophomore Vincent Leo, seniors Jacob Schrauder and Kyle Bryant, and juniors Jeremiah Sanders and Justin Stewart. Bryant and Leo had top 20 finishes at the region meet, and finished 21st and 38th, respectively, at states.
Leo, Bryant, Schrauder and Stewart turned in a good effort at the inaugural Valley Cup relay Aug. 24, placing third behind Robert E. Lee and Waynesboro.
There also is a young group hoping to break into the top seven, including freshmen Stefan Dewald, Chris Wood and Ben Gordon.
The Gladiators have a nice group returning from last year’s team that just missed qualifying for the 1A East meet. They didn’t qualify as a team, but sent five runners to the meet as individual competitors.
“We have a good group of 15 boys,” said head coach Doris Scott, whose team finished fifth in Conference 44. “They’re working hard to be competitive and get to regions this year.”
Leading the group is senior Ethan Ernst, who had a top 20 finish in the Conference 44 meet, then qualified for the Group 1A meet and finished in the top 50. Senior Derrike Hunsberger, who finished 24th at the conference meet, is back , as is classmate Nick Van Fossen.
Juniors Hunter Connor and Rhett Simpson will be in the mix with sophomores Jack Matherly and Will Troyer. Freshman Josh Ernst, Ethan’s brother, was the Gladiators’ second runner in at the Valley Cup meet.
The Cougars had their struggles last year, but thanks to a couple of solid returners, they have a chance to step up a notch.
Leading the group is senior returnee Chase Clinton-Hahn, whom head coach Allison Sprouse says is the team’s top runner. Also back is junior Ben Chatterton, who finished 43rd at the Conference 36 meet, and sophomore Cameron Stegura, who finished just ahead of Chatterton at Conference 36.
Newcomers include freshmen Alexander Callo and Lukas Barragan.
With four runners competing for head coach Natalie Nelson, the Bison don’t have a complete team to field at this point. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be any less competitive on the course.
“They’re pushing each other in practice,” Nelson said. “It would be good to have a team, but it’s nice to work with them individually and help them improve.”
Senior Camron Ray is back for his fourth year with the team. Ray had a good finish at the Conference 36 meet, placing 26th.
Joining him are Oriol Marin, an exchange student from Spain, and freshmen Kenan Lessop and Cameron Stroup.
“They’ve been working hard,” Nelson said. “The new runners have been working on their speed and Camron has been working on his endurance.”