Several well-known runners return to the local cross country teams, which began their seasons this week.
Franklin County and Western Hills are competing in their first meet today at the St. Xavier Tiger Run in Louisville.
Frankfort opened its season Wednesday in a meet at the Archives.
WHHS junior Griffin Staude finished fourth in the state Class 2A cross country meet last season. On the girls side, sophomore Emma Campbell was 12th and junior Jett Bradley was 25th.
The Wolverines lost just two runners off last year’s boys team.
“I'm pretty happy with the numbers,” WHHS coach Adam Schaffner said. “We have 13 boys and we’re up to 10 girls.
“A lot of the kids ran over the summer, and a lot of them are in good shape coming into the season, and that puts us a step closer as we work to improve during the season.”
WHHS has a young squad with just one senior, Josh Howard, listed on the roster.
The Wolverines have added Sahil Shaik, and Nathan Goodpaster is returning from an injury. Both runners are sophomores.
Junior Josh Downey was WHHS’ No. 2 runner last year behind Staude.
Last year the Lady Wolverines ran just three girls at state, not enough for a team score.
This year the team has added several runners, and they’re looking to qualify for the state meet.
“We’re in a tough region,” Schaffner said. “The top three teams in the state are in our region.”
Franklin County returns seniors Makena Gillion and Molly Stigers, who both finished in the top 20 at the state Class 2A cross country meet last year.
The Lady Flyers placed ninth as a team with Gillion finishing seventh and Stigers 17th.
“They’re both seniors, and they’re team captains,” FCHS coach Kristen O’Neil said. “I’ll be very sad when they graduate this year.”
On the boys side, the Flyers graduated their top two runners. Returner Leeland Fern, a junior, will be the team captain.
“Things have been going really well,” O’Neil added. “They started running in the summer, and we’ve gotten a lot of conditioning and strength training in.”
Additions to the teams include freshmen Eliza Boone, Abbagail Grimes and Brigham Boone, senior Nathaniel Lawrence and sophomore Zac Cox.
“We’re very excited,” O’Neil said about the season opener. “The kids are excited to go to their first race. I think they’ll be a little nervous, but we’re excited to see how we stack up.”
The Panthers broke a long drought last season by qualifying the boys team for state. This year they look to improve upon that accomplishment.
“We return our entire boys team that qualified for state,” FHS coach Mac Yocum said. “Reed Miklavcic, Chase Sweger, Sam Yocum, Henry Higbee and Ethan Carpenter were our top five, and we expect even more this year.
“A regional title is not out of the question.”
FHS has added soccer players Ethan Vermillion, Preston Barber and Carter Gilbert along with homeschool transfer Caleb VanEste.
“They all will help tremendously,” Yocum said.
The Lady Panthers had a full squad run at the regional meet last year. They didn’t qualify for state, but FHS had just one runner compete the year before.
“Our girls team is still under construction,” Yocum said. “We’ve got four girls who are there most days, and another three or four from soccer will join us later in the year.
“Sophomore Ella Abney has been running since seventh grade and brings experience. Sophomores Claire Moore, Ella McCutchen and Samantha Wallin are all improving.”
Joining the coaching staff this year is Zach Moore.
“We’ve gotten creative on when we have practice to get those soccer kids more mileage, and it’s proving beneficial,” Yocum said. “Zach brings a wealth of knowledge to the team.”