At Urbana, Coach Mandy Parker was unable to field a girls cross country team due to lack of interest, but the boys team has eight runners.
Senior Alec Freeman will lead the squad, showing the younger runners how to train.
“We’re still struggling with commitment,” Parker said. “I think my freshman boys have some experience and they’re pretty decent runners.”
Those freshmen include Daniel Westcott and Austin Rooney, who both ran for Parker in junior high.
Rounding out the squad are Noah Booze, Jaxton Bloemhard, Ethan Burnside, Anthony Cordell and Hudson Stouffer.
“I hope we can place a little higher,” Parker said. “Hopefully we can work together and feed off one another during races.”
At West Liberty-Salem, the Tigers continue to set the standard for excellence in distance running, both in Champaign County and on a state level.
For the boys, seniors Michael Conley, Jr., Zavier Esch, Charlie Williams and Bryan Woods will lead the team, along with All-OHC honorees Nick Williams, James Loffing, Isaac Smith and Jordan Lewis.
Freshmen Caleb Siegenthaler, Cade Clerico, Noah Smith and Matthew Loffing will join the team for Coach Mike Louden’s 11th year.
The team is aiming to win its 8th consecutive OHC title and its 7th consecutive regional meet.
“We have a wide range of experience levels this season,” Louden said. “Accompany that with limited depth, it will be intriguing to see how our team meshes come race time. We’ve had a tremendous summer thus far, but until the guys are under the gun, we just don’t know how they’ll respond.”
Conley and Nick Williams will likely be the team’s top runners, with both earning OHC First Team honors last season.
“I’m excited about their chances to compete for our team’s one spot,” Louden said. “My expectations for Michael and Nick are to get them to have the confidence to believe that they can race at an elite level and earn individual qualifying spots to state when it comes time.
“I also think that freshmen Noah Smith will be a solid contributor early and will be looking to secure the team’s three spot. After that, the team will have several veterans competing for the team’s remaining two scoring spots, as of now it looks as if senior Charlie Williams and junior Isaac Smith should be filling those spots early. After that, the remaining spots will be completely up in the air and will change from meet to meet, especially until our guys gain a better understanding of how to race the 5K.”
For the girls, Reghan Bieleski, Katie Hartsel, Jenna Magnuson, Taylor Henault, Lauren Fowler, Anna Louden and Sarah Painter are all back after winning letters last season.
Senior Kiana Reames, junior Julie Parker and freshmen Grace Adams, Mikaela Holdridge, Lydia Moell, Tory Pawelko, Payton Umphries and Savannah Weaver have come out to run.
Bieleski is coming off a second-consecutive state run and back-to-back conference MVP awards. As a team, the Tigers won the Ohio Heritage Conference and qualified for the regional meet last year.
“With seven returning letterwinners from last year and a strong freshman class, we will have the depth to make us a solid team this year. This is a hard working, focused, dedicated team, and I like what I see so far,” WL-S Coach Ann Vogel said. “Our team goals include winning a conference title, qualifying for the regional meet and putting ourselves in the position to get to state as a team.”
At Triad, numbers are also down, with neither the boys nor girls able to field a full team.
Holly Cole, Alea Ferguson, Sandi Alspaugh and Summer Doty will compete for the girls, while Eli O’Brien and Kaiden Forrer will run for the boys.
At Mechanicsburg, Coach Jennifer Dietrich is hoping to get her squads into the top three at several meets.
The boys squad will return Jason Surmaceviz, JP Kent, Houston Fraley, Alex Miller, Josh Nunamaker and Mason Ritchason. Newcomers Drake Cary, Isaac Bryant, Dakota Lay and JP Marsh will join the team.
“As coach, my expectations for this group of athletes are hard work, determination and a desire to be their best. They have already shown tremendous respect toward me and our program, plus pride for themselves and our school,” Dietrich said. “They have not missed a practice and have gone over the top with two-a-day practices.”
The girls team will return Emily Wilson, Stephanie Dietrich, Sophie Boeck, Abbey Kramer, Zoe Chandler and Kaitlyn Troth. Newcomers Grace Rozmus, Isabelle Dietrich and Gloria Terry will join the ranks.
“They are a close team with aspiring goals which will give them a good chance to place as a team and individually throughout this season,” Coach Dietrich said. “All of them have a goal of reaching regionals this season.”
Some coaches were unable to be reached for this article.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.