Editor's Note: The high school cross country season will begin today. Here is a preview of area teams.
Austin Hamrick was the bright spot in an otherwise disappointing year for the 2012 Elkins High School boys' cross country team when he qualified for the state meet.
The Inter-Mountain file photo
Elkins, Buckhannon-Upshur and Philip Barbour runners take part in the Big 10 Conference meet last season. All three schools will open the season today.
Inexperience and injuries set the team back but the tight-knit group is hopeful for a rebound this season.
Coach Shellie Burda welcomes back Hamrick, who finished 22nd at the state meet, along with fellow senior Remington Knight and junior Matt Wallace. The incoming freshmen joining the team this year are Dalton Hamrick, Brendan Wallace, Ben Huffman, Will Gongola, Jacob Earle, Dillon Dilly and Andy Helmick.
Burda returns three juniors from last year's girls' team in Hanna Gongola, Monica Rossi and Kathlyne Simmons. Newcomers to the squad are senior Katie Ross, junior Jaycie Saseen, and freshmen Sophie Hummer and Emily Chewning.
Austin Hamrick, Wallace and Knight are training hard, according to Burda, and she expects them to lead the boys with Gongola pacing the girls. Both Hamrick and Gongola won races last year.
"We have a chance to have a decent season this year," Burda said. "The kids are pretty excited ... we just have to stay healthy."
The first meet for Elkins will be today at the Autumn Classic Invitational in St. Marys. The team also is looking forward to the annual Forest Festival Invitational being held Sept. 14 in Elkins.
TENNERTON - Buckhannon-Upshur cross country coach Jim Johnson believes both his boys and girls teams will show improvement this year. He is also hoping to send his complete girls team to the state meet.
Coach Johnson's boys' squad returns seniors Chad Christianson, Ethan Hall, Robbie Snyder, Isaac Skelton and Devan Johnston. Also returning are Joseph Smith, Hunter Pritt and Brandon Kennedy.
Rounding out the roster is freshman Jessie Skiles.
The Bucs will return two girls who ran in the state meet last year in Gillian Ross and Laura Dean. Seniors Chelsie Carlyle and Samantha Perry are also back, along with Katherine Wilson, Megan Russell, Anna Cutlip, Lizzy Floyd and twins Sarah and Samantha Pappas. New to the program are Mariah Smith, Dezirae Freeman, Dakota Fanning and Brittany Casto.
Johnson is looking to Christianson, Hall, Smith and Pritt to lead the boys this season. His top runners for the girls are Ross, Dean and the Pappas twins.
The first meet for both teams is today at the Knight Night Relays at Preston.
The Philip Barbour Colts are the premier AA-A cross country program in West Virginia right now. The girls' team has won the state title three straight years and while the boys placed fourth last year, they were runners-up in 2010 and were champions in 2011.
Coach Missy Kaiser lost scoring leader Brianna Waybright to graduation, along with Trey Furby and Andrew Phillips, but she returns another strong nucleus of runners.
Kaiser welcomes back seniors Marissa Long, Katie Mahoney, Allison Villers, Merida Kaiser, daughter of the coach, and junior Haley Truman to her girls' squad.
Newcomers are sophomores Madi Sandridge and Marley Dib, and freshmen Emilie John, Haley Mancino, Hayley Miller, Brianna Williams, Tristen Furby and Cara Kirk.
On the boys' side, coach Kaiser returns seniors Jesse Austin, Scott Nesland, Ian Nuzum, Dustin Williams, juniors Tyler Baldwin, Trevor Matko, and sophomores Bryce McGee, Colby Queen and Jordan Ware. New to the team is sophomore Bobby Villers and freshmen Josiah Poling and Zac Short.
Kaiser said, "We have a solid seven with a lot of competition for the top spots." She looks for all-staters Long and Villers to lead the way for the girls. Nesland, whose goal is to be selected all-state, is the leader of the boys' squad.
"I'm anxious to see how the year plays out," said Kaiser.
"My job is to keep everyone focused on the task at hand and try to make history again."
Philip Barbour's first meet is the Knight Night Relays at Preston today. Kaiser is also looking forward to the Geico Classic at Cabell-Midland on Aug. 31.