Some of the familiar names have moved on, but there is still plenty of talent and plenty of potential in the Winder-Barrow High School cross country program for the 2013 season.
WBHS, which opens the new year Saturday at the Northeast Georgia Championship hosted by Athens Christian School, will be tested right out of the gate.
“We had a time trial Friday on our course at Bramlett,” coach Michael Lofton said. “I believe our boys were close to the times they left off with last year. We were really close anyway. In a race situation, things can change. Saturday’s competition will tell a lot for us.”
Senior William Wright has emerged as the top runner for the Bulldoggs followed by junior Nelson Lofton, junior Matthew Hackett, senior Tony Rowden, sophomore Will Pursell, sophomore Gustavo Garcia and senior Brandon Banks.
These runners will compete in the “Championship Division” Saturday in Athens. WBHS will also have 10 runners compete in the varsity race with the remaining five in the junior varsity event.
“To get all of our runners in, we had to have three teams,” Lofton said of the boys.
For the WBHS Lady Bulldoggs, Micah Weathers, a freshman, enters as the team’s No. 1 runner.
“She will be a force this year,” Lofton said. “Our course record is 19:34 and she ran it 19:24 in time trials. I thought we could get her in the 19-minute range, but I didn’t realize she would start there. She has her head in this game and is working very hard.”
Senior Amber Palermo is the team’s No. 2 runner going into the opener followed by senior Kiana Perez.
Junior Amber Duffey, junior Macy Hayes (a newcomer to the cross country program) and junior Isabel Martin will round out the top seven runners Saturday for the Lady Bulldoggs.
The top seven WBHS girls will compete in the varsity event while other runners will be in the junior varsity competition.
“This Northeast Georgia Championship is a huge meet,” Lofton said. “It is one of the biggest in Northeast Georgia. Several teams from our region will be there. Athen Christian, who is hosting the event, is also a strong team. You want to see how you will do in the first meet. Things can always change as the season goes on. It’s always tough to gauge how good you are until after the first meet. We’ll know more after Saturday.”
Under Lofton’s guidance, the Winder-Barrow High School cross country program has consistently been one of the top teams in Northeast Georgia in recent seasons winning several region titles and placing at the state meet.