Local boy’s cross country teams are gearing up for the 2019 season, and each squad already has high hopes of competing in the state meet at Kentucky Horse Park in early November. All five local schools begin the year Aug. 20 in the Kentucky-Indiana Border Clash at Yellow Creek Park.
While Apollo and Daviess County return a strong core of upperclassmen, Owensboro Catholic, Owensboro and Trinity will rely on a healthy mix of key returners and newcomers to guide their 2019 campaign.
Apollo will look to use 2018’s second-place finish at the region meet and 16th-place finish at state as motivation to come back stronger and faster to end 2019 on an even higher note.
Similarly, the Panthers finished last season fourth in the region and 15th at state. With several runners back, they’ll use a deep roster to make a big push in the postseason.
Despite having low numbers, Owensboro expects to be competitive this year. The Red Devils look to train hard now and trump last season’s eighth-place finish in the region meet.
Owensboro Catholic lost some key runners but are keeping expectations high after finishing 2018 as the Class 1A Region 2 champions before taking third at the state meet.
Trinity lost three key runners to graduation, so they’ll rely on a strong sophomore class and some rising young athletes to make an impact this season.
Apollo enters the new season with a solid core of returners that look to use last year’s second-place finish at regionals as motivation. Head coach Charlie Shoulta is confident that this year’s team can contend for the region championship and then make some noise at state.
“The team has been very motivated and focused on their summer training,” he said. “Our strength over the last two to three years has been our ability to run as a pack, and the team is working hard every day to maintain and improve upon that strength.”
Shoulta looks for this year’s team to have plenty of contributors, something he thinks will propel them in their training.
“Something that I think will help take us to the next level is the overall depth of our team,” he said. “There are no spots that are guaranteed and we have upwards of 10 young men battling for those spots.”
The Eagles will look to use some of their smaller meets in the early part of the year to work on their race plans for the postseason. They are also scheduled to compete in the Franklin County Invitational, which is held at the Kentucky Horse Park — the same location as the state meet.
The Panthers are looking to improve daily and to compete for both a regional and City-County title this year. Head coach Mark Fortney looks for their offseason training and preseason practices to propel them to a podium at the state meet.
“The team’s success depends on how hard each team member has worked during the offseason,” he said. “Early indications are that several have put in some quality training.”
This year’s Daviess County team also possesses a lot of depth, and Fortney is hopeful that the stiff competition at practice will push each runner to several personal bests throughout the year.
“Our two seniors, Jacob Nash and Ryan Ward, will be called upon to lead the team. They return with three years of running experience,” he said. “We also have several juniors returning with a lot of experience. Brady Terry, Alex Adams, Parker Leachman, Jacob Kirk, Jacob Turner, Logan Gish and Gavin Sanders will all be in the mix, while sophomores Justin Shelton and Nathan Johnson had a very promising cross country camp.”
In addition to big events in Memphis and Louisville, Daviess County will also head to Dayton, Ohio, for one of the most competitive meets in the Midwest before finishing the year at home in the Fast Cats Classic.
The Red Devils enter the 2019 campaign with expectations of competing at the state meet. With the school year finally in session, head coach Gary Mesplay is excited to begin working with his athletes regularly.
“We don’t have huge numbers at OHS this year, but I feel like we have the personnel to put together a competitive team,” he said. “Our goal is to take our team to the Horse Park this year. Several of our runners had summer jobs and did not get to join us much for practice. We can always accomplish more as a group training together.”
Senior Michael Ashley returns as the only Red Devil to qualify for the state meet last season. Mesplay will rely on his leadership skills and work ethic to lead the way this year.
Ashley is joined by fellow senior Clayton Rhoads and junior Nathanael Turner. New to this year’s team are Reece Carroll, Adrian Askins and Lance Burdette.
“I expect Michael to be our team leader while Nathanael is going to be a difference maker for us,” Mesplay said. “I also expect Clayton to provide us with some quality senior leadership.
The Red Devils will host a couple of big meets this year — the Border Clash on Aug. 20 and the Owensboro Invitational on Sept. 7.
The reigning Class 1A Region 2 champions lost some key individuals to graduation, but Aces’ head coach Scott Lowe is confident that this year’s team can defend the title.
“We are expecting to continue to compete at the best of our ability this year,” he said. “We lost some key individuals to graduation but we return a strong core.”
Lowe also emphasized staying healthy and steady growth as keys to their success.
With a second-place finish at City-County, a first-place finish at region and a third-place finish at state last season, the 2019 squad will have to put in plenty of work in order to top those accomplishments.
Lowe said the top runners coming back from last year’s team are John Cason, Jude Neal, Ty Gatten and Logan Jones, and they will have to be a core group that leads the way this season.
The Aces have nine meets on their schedule that Lowe hopes will prepare them for a strong postseason run.
“We will travel to Louisville twice to compete against some Class 1A teams,” he said. “We will also travel to Lexington to compete at the state course.”
Second-year head coach Emily Payne looks for this year’s Raiders to be competitive within their region. With a heavy emphasis on mental preparation, Payne is pushing for her young team to do big things this season.
“We really have to get these kids to realize that they can be competitive if they will strive for that,” she said. “They just have to put their minds to it and give it their all. Mental preparation is just as important as physical.”
Trinity lost three runners to graduation from last year’s team but return a strong group of sophomores. Expected to make a splash this year is freshman Gavin Howard, who fared well at the middle school level last season.
“Gavin was very competitive at middle school competitions last season,” she said. “He was a top finisher in a few races and helped his team be successful.”
The Raiders have several local races on the schedule, but will also travel around the regional for some meets, competing at Madisonville, Bowling Green and Elizabethtown.