BY COREY GESFORD
Montrose, who won a team silver medal at the PIAA State Class 1A Championships one year ago saw the departure of District II Class 1A champion Brandon Curley and fellow seniors Jerome Washo and Eric Bixby from the title winning team.
But the cupboard is not bare for Coach Dean Brewer’s Meteors as District II third-place finisher Liam Mead returns for his senior season, along with Max Brewer to lead Montrose.
Mead, who also finished sixth in the State Championship meet, began his senior campaign with a fourth-place finish in the Cliff Robbins Sr. Memorial held at Letterkenny Fields in Dallas. Mead ran the course in 17:31 and was joined in the top 10 by Brewer (8th place, 18:05), and Colin Spellman (10th, 18:09).
“We have four of our top seven returning,” said Brewer. “Our challenge is finding the runners to be our fifth and sixth.”
Brewer is also looking for a couple of his senior-laden group to step forward and replace the leadership lost from last year’s class.
“I am hoping one or two will step up,” added Brewer. “They’re all kind of equal, no one real dominant personality.”
While his runners are coming off a successful season and a tremendous turnout during the open runs during the summer, Brewer said it’s been tough to gauge where everyone is at after the first couple of weeks of practice and now two events due to the weather.
“The courses are soft, and the first league meet was tremendously hot, so it’s hard to assess where everyone is at.” Brewer said.
The Meteors roster includes seniors Max Brewer, Collin Chidester, Liam Mead, Damien Riley, Colin Spellman, and Nicholas Summerville; juniors Nick Coy and Dan Summerville; sophomores Gabriel Lawton, Jonathan Lyden, and Gabriel Wilbur; and freshmen Declan Giannone and Nicholas Harder.
The Lady Meteors return standout junior Hannah Perkins and senior Georgia Smith to a unit that is low in numbers. The Lady Meteors squad includes seniors Smith and Mikayla Stahl; junior Perkins; sophomores Bridget Bendock and Kelley Warner; and freshmen Annika Bixby and Margaret Nebzydoski.
The lack of numbers will put pressure on the individual members who aspire to qualify beyond the District level said Brewer because it makes it harder to qualify as a team.
But the coach likes what he sees in the group as Smith has prepared well for the summer and Perkins appears to be returning to her all-star form after battling several health issues over the past year.
“We had a good summer, often there would be 20 kids showing up to run,” said Brewer, about the off-season running gatherings that included members of both the boys and girls teams and junior high runners.
Blue Ridge Coach Matt Nebzydoski is beaming with optimism about the future of Blue Ridge’s Cross Country program as the school will field a full squad in both the boys and girls varsity levels and has good numbers in its junior high program.
“Our best turnout in years,” said Nebzydoski. “During the summer we doubled our group runs.”
Leading the Lady Raiders team will be Karris Fazzi. As a junior Fazzi just missed in qualifying for the PIAA State meet when she ran a 22:04 and should be in the hunt to qualify this year.
The boys team will be led by Jack Condon and Daniel Tierney, both who Nebzydoski feels have the ability to do well at Districts and qualify for the state meet.
The Raiders team will consist of senior Tierney; junior, Condon; sophomores, Brandon Gentile, David Hill, and Calvin Scheidler; and freshman, Ashton Fiske.
The Lady Raiders roster includes senior, Fazzi; juniors, Kayleen Conklin and Fiore Giavonna; sophomore Holly Geyer; and freshmen, Reese Allen Kayla Blaisure, and Cameron Robinson.
Mountain View’s small contingency will be led by senior Bobby Gray and Joe Jackson. Gray qualified for the state meet as a freshman is intent on finding his way there to cap his Mountain View career.
Eagles Coach Ray Mitchell also feels junior Matt Dougherty could be a factor in meets during the season and make a push at the District level.
Mountain View will not have a girls’ team again this year, but will have several individuals running, but Mitchell is optimistic that this will change in the future as last year’s junior high girls squad finished fourth at the Junior High District meet and this fall finds the number of runners increasing from five to 12.
Mitchell provides all his runners a 10-week training program and encourages his athletes to be involved with the Endless Mountains Runners Club that runs on Thursdays during the summer.
The Eagles’ boys team will consist of seniors, Evan Clarkson, Bobby Gray, Joe Jackson, and Chris Masters; and junior, Matt Dougherty; along with sophomores, Alex Carpenettin and Aiden Long.
Elk Lake returns the two top girls finishers and District II Championships in senior Shayanne Bennett and junior Sadie Bosscher. Bennet finished 16th in the state in Class A championships. The two returners will be joined by promising freshmen Krista Jones, Lily Struzzieri, and Ashlynn Berry.
The Elk Lake Boys are led by senior Peyton Jones who finished in fourth place at the PIAA District II championships and 19th at the Class A state championships a year ago.
Jones is joined by fellow senior Kale Decker; junior Noah Staff; sophomores, Isaac Brewer, Jeremy Quinnan, and Caleb Wilson; and freshman, Justice Johnson.