Boys' cross country wide-open
Manual, Assumption strong among girls
Friday, August 17, 2007

By Jason Frakes
The Courier-Journal

Welcome to the new high school cross country season, where it seems everybody -- at least among Class 3-A boys -- has a shot to win a state championship. The dominant schools of recent years -- St. Xavier, Trinity and Daviess County -- suffered big losses to graduation. And there are no standout individuals such as Bobby Curtis, Michael Eaton or Brian Long.

"This year there's not any one team that has a group where people are just saying, 'Wow!" said coach Chad Waggoner of defending champion Trinity. "It's going to be a really exciting year, because a team that's No. 1 in one meet could be sixth in their next meet.

"It's going to be a very competitive season."

That's not the story on the 3-A girls' side, where defending champion Manual and 2006 runner-up Assumption return loaded squads.

A look at each class:

Class 3-A

Trinity lost its top five runners, including Thomas Noel (fifth in the state meet) and Ethan Short (sixth).

Brian Hancock and Dane Flinchum are the only returnees from last year's state squad, but the Shamrocks are No. 1 in the Kentucky Track and Cross Country Coaches Association's preseason poll.

"This is the first time I've had a team here that doesn't have any cliques," Waggoner said. "When you have a brother that you're running for versus running just for a teammate, you're going to be much more competitive."

No. 2 St. Xavier also lost five seniors from last year's team that finished fifth in the state, including individual champion Long. He was among eight seniors who finished among the top 10 last year. Senior Shawn Van Hoose is expected to lead the way.

No. 5 Manual, led by David Hamm, and No. 8 Butler, paced by Chris Becker, also are ranked among the top 10 boys' teams.

Top returnees from the Louisville area include South Oldham's Jacob Law, Male's Steve Mize and Shelby County's Stacey Eden.

On the girls' side, Manual has five of its top six runners back. Colleen Campbell, sixth in last year's state meet, has moved to Colorado, but Mary Grace Pellegrini (12th), Brooke Hurley (15th), Elise Medley (25th), Elizabeth Anderson (43rd) and Kelley Hinklin (48th) return. "I'm really pleased with how we've gotten started," Manual coach Debra Moore. "They all worked really hard during the summer."

Assumption is No. 1 in the poll, with Manual No. 2. The Rockets return all seven runners they sent to last year's state meet, led by Ellen Daly (fifth), Allison Riedling (13th), Amanda Perkins (31st), Hillary Raidt (35th) and Adrienne Curtis (46th). Coach Barry Haworth said Curtis, the only senior, is looking to make up for a disappointing finish to last season. "She's very motivated by the fact that her only race last year that wasn't a good one was in the wrong one," Haworth said.

Other top returnees from the Louisville area include Eastern's Sarah Turi (third in the 2006 state meet), Oldham County's Annie Barry (eighth) and Sacred Heart's Emily McAtee (10th).

Class 2-A

Spencer County (girls) and Owensboro Catholic (boys) are the top preseason picks.

North Oldham, led by Cas Lane (62nd at state last year) on the boys' side and Erin Overcash (sixth) on the girls' side, also looks strong.

North Bullitt has a top returnee on the girls' side in Betsy Heines (14th).

Class A

Defending champions Walton-Verona (girls) and St. Henry (boys) are ranked No. 1 in the preseason.

Christian Academy, which did not send a boys' team to last year's regional meet for disciplinary reasons, is ranked No. 3 and will be led by Brandon Page and Jared Burnett.

Portland Christian brothers Joel (fourth) and Justin (15th) Wellum also return after strong performances at last year's state meet.

Top returning girls from the Louisville area are Kentucky Country Day's Angelique Ciliberti (ninth), Whitefield Academy's Meghan Gregory (24th) and Christian Academy's Candace Shoemaker (37th), Taylor Dixon (48th) and Sadie Stone (61st).