After a 2015 season in which both his boys’ and girls’ cross country teams just missed out on state appearances, placing sixth and seventh at regionals, respectively, Mount Gilead coach Dennis West is hoping to get over that hump this year.
Both teams return a strong group of veterans, with the boys having the most experience back with seven lettermen. While the team did graduate Kyle Ciballi, their third runner last year, West expects strong results from his returnees.
“We have three very solid runners returning with varsity and state season experience,” he said. “We have strong front runners in Austin Hallabrin, Casey White and Nick Weiss and we have a strong pack from our four to nine runners.”
Hallabrin qualified for the state meet as an individual last year and placed 18th to cap a strong season in which he was the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference champion.
“Austin Hallabrin has had a great running career the past three years in cross country and track,” said the coach. “He has been to state every year in both sports, plus stood on the state podiums.”
Of the returnees, Hallabrin and Weiss are both seniors, while White, Kyle White, Trevor Ball, Gavin Robinson and Sy Shipman are all sophomores.
“We want to focus on winning the MOAC title and the district title,” said West. “We want to be in the top four at region to go after the state. We are planning on getting to state — our numbers are up and we have a stronger top seven.”
The girls’ team graduated their lone state representative from last year in Jenna Shipman, as well as varsity competitor Kelsey Snyder, but West still feels he has a lot of strong experience.
Returning are seniors Hannah Bush, Darcy Picker and Savannah Randall; junior Kelly Baer and sophomores Jadyn Shipman and Micah James. Bush and Picker both have run in the state meet in previous years.
“Our senior experience is a major factor for the season,” said West. “We have a strong top five. We have two girls returning with state meet experience and some talented freshmen.”
With seven runners in that freshman class, they compose nearly half the team, ensuring their performances will play a big role in the team’s success.
“We want to focus on winning the MOAC championship title, improve on our district and regional places and go after the state,” said West.