By ROB HAMILTON
With four letterwinners back for his boys’ team to go with a large freshman class, Mount Gilead coach Dennis West is hoping for them to advance to the state meet after placing 13th there last year.
Senior Kyle Ciballi, juniors Nick Weiss and Austin Hallabrin and sophomore Matt Robinson give the team experience. Hallabrin, in particular, had a successful season last year, placing 10th in the state meet after winning at the conference, district and regional levels.
They will be joined by a lot of newcomers, including an eight-man freshman class of Casey White, Kyle White, Trevor Ball, Gavin Robinson, Sy Shipman, Nathan Johnson, Conner Page and Xavier Nells.
“We have four very solid runners returning with varsity and state season experience,” said West. “We have a strong front-runner in Austin Hallabrin and we look to be a tighter pack with our 2-5 runners with Kyle, Nick, Casey and Trevor.”
Also on the team are senior Sawyer Shipman; juniors Nick Conway and Logan Conrad and sophomores Tyler Clark, Colton Clark and Isaac George. The team did graduate three runners, including their second runner Tyler Beck and fourth runner Ethan Hatfield.
“Our focus is on winning the MOAC title and the district title,” said West. “We want to be in the top four at regional to go after the state. We are planning on getting to state — our strength lies in our talent and experience.”
The girls’ team also graduated three runners (Rachel Bush, Bryanna Bolha and Kenzie McKirgan) from a team that won at conference and district, took third at regionals and finished 11th in the state meet. However, just like the boys’ squad, the girls return four letterwinners in seniors Kelsey Snyder and Jenna Shipman and juniors Hanna Bush and Darcy Picker. All four ran in the state meet last year, with Shipman being an all-MOAC, all-district and all-region runner.
“Our senior experience is a major factor for the season,” said the coach. “We have a great pack and a lot of depth on this team. We have four girls returning with state meet experience. We have eight runners, so we must work hard.”
Also on the squad this year are senior Hope Hack, sophomore Kelly Baer and freshmen Jadyn Shipman and Micah James. Despite having a small team, West has large goals, as he hopes the squad can maintain its recent run of very strong postseason performances.
“We want to focus on defending the championship titles,” he said. “We want to go after another sweep of conference, improve on the district and regional places and go after the state.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS