Boys Cross Country preview: Area teams return a host of talent
By Gregg Rettig
Pioneers coach Chad Palenshus is taking a wait-and-see approach with his young 2012 squad.
“The boys lost a lot last season to graduation, but we still have some young runners that should be able to run some good times and have valuable experience of running in the postseason,” Palenshus said. “The team will definitely still be competitive at some of the meets we are running in this year and I am anxious to see how the come together.
“I guess I’m not sure how strong we will be yet and I look forward to find out how competitive they will be.”
Nick Cooperrider is back. He was an individual regional qualifier in 2010. Alder also returns Jacob Somwaru, who will be a sophomore this season.
“He has a very positive looking future if we can keep him healthy,” his coach said.
Palenshus added that the Pioneers have a schedule which will see what they’re made of.
“We are going to several big meets this season the our schedule has changed pretty significantly,” he said. “We are going to Pickerington and Watkins Memorial this year for their invitationals and they are early in the season.
“We’ll learn a lot right away by going to those meets. Also new this season, we are going to the Erin Nance Invitational at London, which will be another good judge of letting us know where we stand before heading into the district meet. Of course, our own Ray Russell Invitational is something we always look to run well at.”
The London boys cross country team lost six of its top seven runners from a year ago, mostly due to graduation, leaving it with what was essentially the junior varsity group from 2011.
However, Red Raiders coach Andy Crawford said don’t count London out.
“I still think we have the potential to surprise people,” he said. “These boys learned a lot under last year’s class and they’re ready to assume the mantle. Our biggest strength will be our balance.
“I fully expect all six boys to run together for most of the season and to all be running in at least the low 19s by season’s end. All that we lack is a frontrunner, but what we have will make us at least a dark horse contender when leagues and districts roll around in October.”
Junior Keith Wright is the lone returning varsity runner, and he just missed out on being named all-SCOL last season. Senior Corey Patterson and juniors Garrett Blackburn and Jack Spahn are our other returnees. Senior Ryan Wolfe and sophomore Nathan Newman are new, but have been keeping up nicely with the more-experienced runners.
Crawford said staying healthy is the ket season and South Central Ohio League successes. The Red Raiders won the SCOL last season.
“Realistically, we’re shooting for top-three in the league and to finish in the top half at districts,” he said.
As for the league, Crawford said Hillsboro is the favorite.
“I’m on record as saying we stole the 2011 title from Hillsboro by running our best race of the season at leagues, so I’m sure they will return more focused than ever,” he said. “ Miami Trace is also improving by leaps and bounds every time we see them, so they will be a factor. I just happen to be sentimental enough to believe that we will have some kind of a say as to how the league meet will turn out.”
The Madison-Plains boys cross country has three returning runners from last season — Nathan Garrett, Aaron Depugh and Caleb Montrose — and a few new faces.
“The team has a lot of natural running ability we just need to work hard towards our goals the entire season so we can make the postseason.” Golden Eagles coach Bridgett Shoemaker said.
The coach added that the Golden eagles, who are in their last year in the South Central Ohio League, want leave their mark before transferring to the Mid-State League for the 2013-14 season.
“With this being our last year in the SCOL we want to go out and try our best at our meet,” she said. “We only have one shot to make it count!
“We have a full schedule that will include a lot of meets with the schools in the MSL. We are heading to new meets this year so when we start in the MSL next season we are prepared.”