Etowah Cross Country

Etowah cross country runners (from left) Makenna Calbert, Sydney Runyan and Joel Maluf said they expect their times to improve this season with another year of experience.

There may not be another high school sport where the term “climbing the hill” is more applicable, and for members of the Etowah cross country team that’s exactly the intended goal as the 2019 season begins.

The Etowah girls finished second in the county behind Creekview last season and eighth in Class AAAAAAA and coach Garrett Hurlbert is optimistic about the team’s chances of continuing the upward trend. Entering his third season as head coach, Hurlbert said this year’s girls team could challenge to be the best in the county, and possibly the best in program history.

“Since our top five runners last year were all juniors and younger, there’s no reason to think they won’t be better this season with another year of training and growth,” Hurlbert said.

Etowah’s top two runners this year will be senior Natalie Runyan and sophomore Makenna Calbert. After recording times in the low 19-minute range at last year’s county championships, both Runyan and Calbert said they hope to get their times down to the low 18-minute range. Whether or not the Etowah girls will be able to overtake Creekview in the county or make a push at the state finals will likely come down to whether the team’s third, fourth and fifth runners will be able to close the gap with the other teams. Right now Caroline Pierce, Natalie Calbert and Meg Lance look to be in those positions.

“I hope they can get into the mid-to-high 18-minute range,” Hurlbert said. “Last year they were in that mid-20s range.”

The boys side for Etowah will again be young this season, but Hurlbert said he expects his younger runners to continue to develop and push the better teams they’ll go up against this fall. Two juniors, Joel Maluf and Eli Farrar, look to be the top two runners on the boys side with no seniors currently figuring in the top seven for Etowah. Hurlbert said Matthew Hall, a sophomore, has shown promise as well.

Monday’s weather forced the Etowah runners to practice indoors, but beyond running timed distances, the team uses a variation of weight training, core exercises, plyometrics and yoga to improve performance. Hulbert said he brought the practice of yoga with him when he began teaching at the school four years ago, and added it’s a common misconception that distance runners don’t utilize other training mechanisms beyond simply running.

“Even those professional distance runners are doing weight training of some kind,” Hurlbert said.

Runyan said she believes the varsity girls could challenge for the county championship this season while Maluf said that he could see his times continue to improve in only his third year of competitive running. Makenna Calbert, who didn’t practice Monday due to a slight groin injury, said she expects her times to improve this season as well once she returns at full strength.

After coming up short to Creekview last season by three points in the county championship, the varsity girls in particular are optimistic about their chance within Cherokee County.

“Creekview’s girls team is always one of the top in the state,” Hurlbert said “But I definitely think we can push them this year.”

Cherokee

Coach: Rebekah Gay (ninth season)

Last year: Boys varsity finished second place in the county.

Key Returners:

Girls: Lily Cincola (sophomore), Elle Sims (junior), Ashley Pope (senior).

Boys: Dom Delillo (junior), Bart Driscoll (senior), Christopher Blanton (senior), Taylor Kendrick (senior).

Newcomers of Impact:

Girls: Lexi Pavase (freshman), Catalina De Los Rios (junior), Grace Avillar (sophomore), Kendle Butterworth (sophomore), Emma Tyler (freshman)

Boys: Tyler Kendrick (sophomore), Jackson King (senior), David Snyder (junior), Andrew Solano (freshman), Andres Baltazar (freshman), Clark Farrell (sophomore), Cole Leshin (junior), Dustin Moyer (senior).

Creekview

Coach: Kirk Scharich (first season)

Last year: The varsity girls finished third in the state while the varsity boys finished 13th in the state in Class AAAAAA.

Key Returners:

Girls: Makena Gates (junior), Lane McTyre (senior), Emily Garca (senior), Kate McTyre (sophomore), Mena Naporano (junior), Lauren Pitkins (senior), Anna Robinson (senior), Molly Heisman (sophomore).

Boys: Chris Adams (junior), Matt Bowker (senior), Braeden Garriques (sophomore), Bryson Gates (junior), Tyler Goodwyn (senior), Wilson Hurdle (sophomore), Will Jobe (senior), Nico Klementzos (junior), Justin Lehman (sophomore)

Newcomers of Impact:

Girls: Brooke Purves (senior), Adrienne Jocke (freshman), Kara Simons (sophomore).

Boys: Jason Johnson (junior), Parker Merritt (junior), Nick Nielson (junior), Luke Russell (freshman), Connor Bergey (sophomore)

Etowah

Coach: Garrett Hurlbert (third season)

Last year: Varsity girls qualified for the state finals where they finished eighth in Class AAAAAAA.

Key Returners:

Girls: Sydney Runyan (senior), Makenna Calbert (sophomore), Caroline Pierce (junior), Natalie Calbert (sophomore), Meg Lance (sophomore).

Boys: Joel Maluf (junior), Eli Farrar (junior)

Newcomers of Impact:

Girls: Haley Theriault (junior), Jenna Doran (senior), Kara Drew (sophomore).

Boys: Seth Eye (freshman), Dru Moore (freshman), Ben Harper (senior).

River Ridge

Coach: Keith Hooper (ninth season)

Last year: Varsity girls finished 10th at the state finals in Class 6AAAAAA.

Key returners:

Girls: Cayden Crimson (sophomore), Paige Ewald (senior), Ciara Miles (junior), Caitlin Johnson (sophomore), Kiara Johnson (sophomore), Lily Dery (senior), Skylor Molina (senior),

Boys: Rylan Haskett (junior), David Crow (senior), Trey Huguley (senior), Mason Steele (junior), Spencer Reppe (sophomore).

Newcomers of Impact:

Girls: Maggie Gallion (sophomore), Caroline Cousins (sophomore), Simone Goins (sophomore), Gabriela Johnson (junior),

Boys: Daniel Hansaraj (junior).

Sequoyah

Coach: Corrine Snow (second year)

Last year: Boys varsity finished as county champions and fourth place in Region 6AAAAAA. Qualified for the state playoffs where they finished 18th at the Class AAAAAA state finals.

Key Returners:

Girls: Susanna Rogers (sophomore), Madison Ehmig (junior)

Boys: Josh Helms (sophomore).

Newcomers of Impact:

Girls: Dalia Cassimally (sophomore), Elle Grace Cothren (freshman).

Boys: Jacob Labasi (freshman), Brock Freeman (freshman)

Woodstock

Coach: Wesley Mitchell (first season)

Last year: Girls varsity finished third in county.

Key Returners:

Girls: Glenda Setlock (junior), Sarah Gurley (senior), Avery Stiber (senior), Anna Wadsworth (sophomore).

Boys: Ian Eastridge (senior), Dillon Watson (sophomore), Joseph Mines (sophomore), Owen Mason (junior), Luis Casteneda (senior).

Newcomers of Impact:

Girls: Ella Bailey (freshman), Caroline Olvin (freshman), Lily Bailey (freshman).

Boys: Tristan Leonardi (sophomore), Cameron Stuart (freshman).

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