After miles of training in the summer heat, cross country season is officially here.
Last season saw the emergence of a new top boys runner in Cherokee County, along with a number of underclassmen who earned all-county honors. Cherokee won the county championship for the first time since 2002 and should be led in 2020 by the best runner in the area.
Dom Delillo, the Cherokee Tribune Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year as a junior in 2019, set new personal bests along the way. He held the county’s fastest time (16 minutes, 12 seconds) last season, while also placing first at the county championships and Warpath Invitational. He finished his season by posting the county’s best time (17:23) at the state championships in Carrollton.
Delillo will enter his senior season with high expectations and should be joined by Jake Herbert, who earned all-county honors as a sophomore. The Warriors will need to replace last year’s senior leader, Taylor Kendrick, but expect big years from juniors Jake Herbert and Clark Farrell.
Cherokee also won the boys junior varsity county championship last season, and names like Tyler Kendrick, Andrew Salano and Andres Baltazar could become big contributors for the Warriors this year.
It likely will not be easy, though, with Creekview expected to challenge Cherokee for the top spot in the county.
The Grizzlies return three all-county selections and should compete for both a county and region championship. Christopher Adams and Justin Lehman return for their senior seasons, while junior Bryson Gates will join them after all three placed in the top seven at last year’s county championship.
All three Creekview runners posted personal bests under 17 minutes in 2019. Gates placed 23rd at the Class AAAAAA state meet with a time of 17:31 and could be primed for a breakout junior season.
River Ridge returns an excellent runner of its own in Rylan Hasket.
As a junior, Hasket placed second at the county meet (16:55) and 13th in the Region 6AAAAAA meet (17:20). The Knights finished fifth at the county championships last year and will need to replace last season’s senior leader, David Crow. The emergence of new names to go along with Hasket could determine River Ridge’s place within Cherokee County and the new Region 7AAAAAA.
Woodstock finished third at the county championships and will bring back juniors Dillon Watson and Joseph Mines. Both were all-county selections and should compete as a few of the better runners in the county.
Etowah finished fourth at the county championships in 2019 and should expect strides forward with several key runners a year older. Etowah’s Joel Maluf recorded a top-15 finish at county last year and should help pace the Eagles this season.
Sequoyah finished sixth last year but could possibly expect a big jump this season. Juniors Josh Helms and Aidan Ingram both recorded top-15 finishes last year at the county championships and could be bolstered by a group of younger runners who claimed the county JV championship. One name to watch is Jacob Labassi, who won the JV county championships with a time of 18:04.