Five Story Lines To Watch in the 2014 XC Season
It’s that time of the year again, Ladies and Gentlemen. The calendar has turned and August is upon us, which means XC season is just around the corner. As part of our Pre-Season coverage kickoff, we are bringing to you 5 stories to watch out for in the upcoming season.
1. How Will St. Henry Respond After Last Year’s Defeat to Brossart?
In 2002, St. Henry began a dynasty in Class A, winning 11 straight team championships. Several teams had gotten close to dethroning them, but no one had been able to break their streak… until last year. Bishop Brossart, led by senior Michael Caldwell (despite a magnesium deficiency the day of State and stumbling through the finish line) did the unthinkable and ended their run. Good news if you’re a St. Henry fan: Caldwell has graduated. Bad news if you’re a St. Henry fan: Caldwell was the only senior on Brossart’s team from State last year. Chris Loos and Nick Shuler will look to improve on their times last season to start a dynasty of their own with Brossart. They will face stiff competition from St. Henry’s young guns, led by Josh Hannon, who also lost only one senior on their State squad. Throw in the fact that these two teams run in the same region and will race each other almost every weekend and you have the makings of a year-long, back and forth dual that may take until November to sort out who will come out on top.
2. Gabby Karas: How Low Can She Go?
In case you were living under a rock in the “Kentucky High School Running World” last spring, you probably heard something about the Gabby Karas Distance Showcase… err… I mean, the AA State Track Meet. Don’t get me wrong, there were fantastic performances throughout the day, but the 9th grade girl from Collins absolutely stole the show with AA State Records in the 1600, 800, and 3200. Crazy stat to go along with that: Across all 3 events, she was only a COMBINED 3.96s off the OVERALL state records for each of them. Couple that with 3 consecutive XC State Championships, and it’s safe to say that if runners were stocks, Gabby Karas would be at an all-time high. The question is can she sustain this high level of success not only this season, but into coming seasons as well. A side-aspect of this story is also the fact that Gabby has two young ladies in Aleja Grant and Michaela Reinhart (who has actually beaten Gabby before) in Class AA who have also repeatedly turned in elite performances and will be looking for their opportunity to step up, should Gabby have a sub-par season. All indications, however, is that Karas is poised to start re-writing even more history than she already has.
3. Who will Step Up in the AAA Boys Individual Race
Jonathan already posted a poll touching on a similar topic, but I want to focus in on the discussion a little bit and look specifically at AAA. The XC State Meet last year was led by 3 seniors followed by 4 underclassmen in Ben Young of Tates Creek, Cole and Tanner Dowdy of South Oldham, and Robert Rupp of North Hardin all finishing within 10s of each other. Throw in St. X’s up-and-coming studs in William Mulloy and Spencer Hayden (Mulloy having a great track season in the middle distance races), and the Cooper boys team, led by Brady Baker, Mitchell Greenhalgh, and Zach Stewart, all of whom already have either sub 16 or a “16 0’something” attached to their name. Mulloy appears to be the popular consensus for the leading man coming into the season, as he won the poll for the best male returner, but it’s a far cry from people clicking on bubbles in an online poll to someone going out and racing a 5K faster than everyone else in the state. Look for Ben Young, who was the first non-senior to finish at state, as previously mentioned, to take advantage of the graduating class being gone and prove the state wrong for picking him second in the poll. It will be fun to watch and until they hit the course, this will all be left up to speculation.
4. Now That Maggie Allen is Back, Can SHA Take Down Rival Assumption
Last XC season saw one of the bright young names in KY running, Maggie Allen, go down to injury after she had a fabulous 2013 track campaign. Despite this blow, SHA still managed a trophy place, snagging 4th. Maggie was more than ready to come back this spring, winning the 1600 and 800, almost setting the overall record in the 800. This year, Maggie looks to pick up where she left off in track and lead SHA to victory over Assumption, who has dominated girls distance in the state for the past several years. While SHA gained Maggie, they lost seniors Caitlin Carroll, Julia Buechler, Katie Koch, Parker Shay, and Lauren Wagner from their 2013 State Squad. Assumption isn’t immune from graduation, however, as they also lost all but Abbie Wright and Sarah Crawford from their State Team. Add in the fact that Barry Haworth and Rick Heim are two of the best coaches in the state and both Assumption and SHA are never devoid of young, up-and-coming talent and this looks to be aother great chapter in the continued rivalry of these two teams.
5. North Oldham Vs. Highlands: Will the Streak Continue
Since 2008, only two teams have hoisted the Class AA State Championship trophy and were it not for an unfortunate day out at the Horse Park in 2009, there would only be one. North Oldham has won 5 out of the last 6 championships and have been the big name in AA running. Last season, a couple teams looked poised to challenge them, especially with Trenton Fryman, North’s lead runner, hindered by injury for part of the season. North held strong, however, and continued their streak of 4 consecutive championships. One of the chasing teams from last season, Highlands, looks the best for another shot at the champions in this 2014 edition of Cross Country Season. Losing only John Michael Griffith from their State team and returning last year’s Runner-Up in XC and 3200m State Champion in Ethan Shuley, Highlands has to feel they are in a good position to take down the Mustangs. North Oldham is probably not exactly shaking in their boots and have reason to be confident themselves, as Trenton Fryman looks to come back healthier this year after running sub 16 earlier last season and winning the 1600m Run in at the Class AA State Track Meet. Also, despite losing 4 out of their top 7 from last year, fresh blood and young talent is never in short supply with their squad and the evidence is in one of the best young freshmen in the state, Alex McClarty. They don’t race against each other very much throughout the year so we may have to revisit this one in November, but look for a heavyweight slugfest when we do.