Jackson Cross Country looks to impress in the Federal League and run toward the state championships.
Cross country is not a sport for students who enjoy squeezing every last second of relaxation from summer break.
For the Jackson Polar Bears, the 2013 season is underway, having started with the annual alumni meet. The regular-season schedule begins with the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) preview meet at National Trail Race Way on Saturday and from there, Jackson sprints directly into its slate of invitationals and dual meets. Even with an early (Aug. 20) start to the school year, the cross country team has been out on the road – literally – for several weeks.
Both the boys and girls teams return experienced squads with a collection of decorated runners leading the way. For the boys, senior Ben Hyde is back as one of the team's top competitors with first-team honors for the Federal League and Stark County on his resume. Fellow seniors Tyler Berg and Paul Clifford round out the team's veteran core and juniors Brett Miller, Mark Dickerhoof and Tyrus Jones all bring varsity experience to the roster as well.
Head coach Kevin Walsh can also draw on sophomores Nick Huffman and Nate Mallue, both of whom competed at the varsity level as freshmen.
"We return a large amount of experience on both sides this year and we look to improve each and every week," Walsh said.
The alumni meet also offered a chance for first-year runners A.J. Brokaw and Jared Fehlman to show their promise and both impressed the coaching staff enough to push for time on the varsity. The alumni meet was once again a chance for both former and future Polar Bears to run together, as both alumni and members of the David YMCA children's running program took part. The oldest alumni runner to compete was 1988 graduate Michael Rachita.
The girls team will be built around state qualifiers Madison Williams and Emma Dillon. The pair ran 19:52 and 19:58, respectively, at the state meet last year and were both named Second Team All-Federal League. They will run alongside fellow seniors Biz Graef and Grace Taylor as the main portion of the starting lineup for meets.
Even the team's underclassmen are seasoned from varsity competition and sophomore Greta Taylor returns with big expectations after running a 19:01 at last year's state meet.
The combined roster for the two teams consists of 151 runners, which both provides a buffer against injury and creates a competitive atmosphere for runners pushing one another for spots in meets. The girl team also has the momentum of its postseason run and state meet appearance to rely on and with both the volleyball and girls lacrosse teams reaching the state semifinals or better last season, the cross country team is eager to keep the roll going for Jackson girls sports.
Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
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