Between its boys and girls cross country teams, Jamestown returned 11 of their top 14 runners from last season including reigning Virginia Gazette Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year Thorin Jean.
This could be a big season for the Eagles, who are eyeing at least a run at a 4A East Region championship for both teams.
Jamestown features its usual girth of team members with 91 runners (59 boys, 32 girls). And all seven of the top runners are back for the Eagles’ girls, who finished second in the region meet last season to Midlothian.
Jamestown should be the top teams to keep an eye on locally but Bruton, Warhill and Lafayette each return some talented runners.
The most remarkable aspect of Jean’s 2016 junior season was her steady improvement.
Jean had hoped just to break the 21-minute mark but finished the season with a fifth-place (20:16) region finish, a second-place (19:36) mark at the conference race and recovered from a foot injury to take 12th at states in 19:10. She also logged a school-record 18:53 earlier in the season on Jamestown's home course.
“We expect her early-season performances to be in the upper 18:00s,” Jamestown coach Mark Tompkins said, “with a goal of the end of the season to possibly move down to the low 18:00s.”
Kirsten Long and Taylor Stutt are also among the top returners for the Eagles’ girls while Clarke Agnew, Taylor Beall, and Andrew Denny lead the boys.
“The boys are a close-knit group of boys with strong returners,” Tompkins said, “and we show remarkable depth with the ability to have up to 12 runners able to run under 18:00 this season. The boys are aiming for the top five to be under 16:50. The girls team is a wonderful group and our goal is to eventually have five girls under 20:30.”
Around the Bay Rivers District, Tompkins said he expects Grafton to provide tough competition.
The Rams lost a couple of the “irreplaceable” type of athletes on both the boys and girls sides in Konrad Steck and Brooke Crookston.
Each was a stalwart in cross country and indoor and outdoor track for Lafayette and Steck claimed conference and regional titles last season.
The Rams also lost their second-best runner on the boys side in addition to senior Serenity Chavez for the girls.
The top returning runners for the Rams, Brenner Beard and Allison Crookston, were just freshmen last year:
The Lions’ girls lost only one senior from last season while the boys graduated three.
Seniors Martina Watson, Ambyr Ashley and Sianna Ferguson should lead the way for the girls.
“We also have a good class of freshmen girls that show a lot of promise and add depth to the team,” said Warhill coach Kameron Schaefer. “Overall, we're fielding around 15 girls this year, heavy on both seniors and freshmen with few sophomores or juniors. With our transition to 4A and the removal of a conference meet this year, it is very difficult to predict how the girls team will end up in the regional standings.
“We'll be running against a lot of schools we've never raced before and a lot of schools we don't know much about. It will be a big transition year for us but we're hopeful to be competitive and confident in the core group of girls we have now.”
Schaefer expects junior Evan Clary to lead the boys along with seniors Abe Maldonado and Jordan Blamy.
The boys team isn’t quite as experienced as the girls but features 10 more runners so depth should be a strong point in this rebuilding season.
The Panthers’ girls team returned a pair of all-state runners in Clara Wincheski and Kaitlyn Ardrey.
Wincheski’s times were mostly on par with Jean’s last season and the Bruton senior won the 2A East championship and finished the season at a showcase event, clocking a PR Of 19:06.
“I believe she will easily break 19 minutes and have an outstanding senior season,” Bruton coach Chris Boop said of Wincheski.
Boop anticipates transfer Emily Slack, freshman Nina Parziale and sophomore Ave Veith to potentially help the Panthers make a return appearance to the 2A championships.
The boys missed out on states last year, and the goal this season is to get back behind seniors Kyle Perry, Chris Zeigler and Caleb Bower along with sophomore Joey Mahoney and freshman Jacob Lohr.
Dates to watch
Sept. 13 - First Bay Rivers District meet at Eastern State Hospital, 4 p.m.
Oct. 4 - Bay Rivers meet at Jamestown High, 4 p.m.
Oct 7- Big Cat Invite at New Quarter Park, 9 a.m.
Oct. 14 – Mile Stat Invitational at Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville, TBD
Nov. 10-11 VHSL championships at Great Meadow, The Plains, TBD
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.