The Winder-Barrow High School cross country runners are set to begin 2014 when they travel to Savannah this weekend.
The Lady Bulldoggs are back after winning another region title last season while the WBHS boys earned second at region despite missing one of their top runners.
For 2014, coach Michael Lofton said the girls are strong in terms of the top five to six runners, but there isn’t much depth behind them.
Micah Weathers is primed for another standout season after being the top runner for the Lady Bulldoggs throughout her freshman year.
She was recently named one of the top 50 returning female cross country runners in the Southeast and is expected to be one of the top runners in Region 8-AAAAA.
“She will be strong,” Lofton said. “She spent her summer working on her form. She likes to run against the boys because she wants to beat them as well. She views it as ‘someone is in front of me so I have to be faster.’”
Macy Hayes, Sarah Carpenter, Amber Duffey and Isabelle Martin also return this season along with newcomer Katie Arrendando. Hope Richardson is back after suffering an injury which limited her season last fall.
Aurora Komeri is a new member of the team and an exchange student from Finland.
“She has a positive attitude and enjoys working with us,” said Lofton. “They don’t have team sports in Finland and one thing she wanted to do was be part of a team and she picked cross country.”
For the WBHS boys, Lofton said he was nervous until recently. Participation in the offseason running program had less participants.
Now that practice has begun and the coach has seen his runners in events such as Summer’s End, he is breathing somewhat of a sigh of relief.
Nelson Lofton is the likely No. 1 runner for the boys. He finished ninth overall in the recent Summer’s End race in Winder despite starting the event almost two minutes late.
“In our time trials, he has shown good form, good effort and looked good overall,” Coach Lofton said. “I think he can do well. He is leading the team. If I can get some of his teammates to get on his heels and push him it will help him even more.”
At this point, the No. 2 spot is anyone’s guess.
Timmy Villameter, Will Pursell and Jake Martinez are each vying for that spot. Gustova Garcia has had strong trial runs and will be in the top five for the Bulldoggs. Matthew Hackett has made the varsity for the first meet.
Dakotah Kay has also been impressive in the preseason. In recent years, Kay has split his summers between swimming and running, but decided to focus on running this year, Lofton said.
“He’s made varsity,” his coach said. “He pushes other people to do well.”
Trey Olson and Harrison Daniel are also in the mix. Lofton said the boys enjoy competing and pushing each other and don’t worry about any hurt feelings.
“They are friends, but when it comes to running they tell each other ‘I’m going to beat your butt,’” Lofton said.
A solid group of freshman runners are working in the WBHS boys program.