Carroll returns just three of eight boys cross country runners that landed on the 2018 Times all-county first team this fall, and two of those athletes are state champions.
Liberty’s Woodrow Kashima and Connor Stewart, and South Carroll’s John Kettula, are back to help lead their teams this fall and the Lions return as the reigning Class 2A state champions for once again.
The top five finishers at last year’s county meet have graduated, including Daniel Saxon, the two-time Times Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Saxon helped lead Liberty’s boys squad to repeat county and 2A West titles, as well as the team’s fourth straight state title.
Here are three things to watch for boys cross country this fall:
Lions’ pack leading the way
Saxon might be gone, but Liberty’s ability to maintain its pack running has continuously helped the Lions find success. Five Lions athletes finished in the top 12 at last year’s county meet, led by Saxon.
Seniors Kashima and Stewart finished seventh and eighth, followed by Jake Beaumier and Jake Lucas in 11th and 12th. Kashima came in 17th at the 2A West meet and 19th at the 2A state meet. Stewart finished seventh at the 2A West meet and 13th at states. Beaumier was 12th and Lucas came in 19th at regionals, and the duo finished 36th and 38th at states.
Look for senior Gavin Edson and junior Trent Taylor to make an impact in the Lions’ scoring this fall. Edson finished 16th at last year’s county meet and 25th at regionals.
“You can expect to see them as a pack through the majority of races,” Lions co-coach Dan Jones said. “We may not have a guy who goes out and wins a race like a Dan Saxon did but we’re going to have five or six guys in the top 10 to 15 to help us win races. That’s going to be our strength, our ability to put our fours and fives and sixes way up high. Of course, we still have the depth so our seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 are all not very far behind the pack.”
Century’s Mead returns; Shelton taking over at FSK
Chris Mead coached the Knights’ program with Justin Metzger from 2010-2017, and the Knights won a county title in 2012. The team finished third at counties under Tony Griner last fall and graduated Zachary Fenton, a Times first-team all-countian.
Mead said this will be a rebuilding season for the Knights as they return a good mix of talent combined with incoming runners looking to make an impact.
Francis Scott Key has two new coaches this fall, and Gary Shelton will lead the boys program in place of Juan Cortez, who coached the teams for five years. The Eagles boast a number of athletes who have not run cross country before and they will be a small squad of eight athletes.
Shelton anticipates a successful first season coaching the Eagles, despite the losses of Tanner Miller and Jacob Watson to graduation last year.
Expect a battle at Bull Run
All seven Carroll schools are listed as participants at the annual Bull Run meet, which takes place Sept. 21 at Hereford High School — site of the state championships in November. The race draws thousands of runners and teams from multiple states, and it returned to the schedule in 2018 after a two-year hiatus.
Boys and girls teams are separated into four races: elite, large school, medium school, and small school. It’s a good race for many calendars, and it gives runners a taste of what they can expect at states.