Boys' cross country preview: Local teams return majority of top runners

Plenty of talent is back on the Class 4 Northwestern District cross country scene, and James Wood’s runners will try to keep its string of district titles and state meet appearances going.

The Colonels only lost two of their top seven runners from last year’s team, which won its third straight district title and advanced to its second consecutive Class 4 state meet during a season that took place in March and April of 2021. Four returning runners placed in the top 18 at the district meet.

James Wood will be paced by Nathaniel Woshner. The senior was the only local runner to earn All-State honors last year (he placed 13th in the Class 4 meet in 16 minutes and 55 seconds over 3.1 miles, earning James Wood’s first All-State medal since 2014). Woshner, the district champion (16:07.20 at the Third Battle of Winchester Course) will also be joined by All-District runners Ethan Pratt-Perez, a sophomore who took seventh in the district, and senior Liam McDonald (10th).

Millbrook wasn’t too far behind James Wood at the district meet (the Colonels had 40 points to the Pioneers’ 57) or the Region 4C meet (49 to 59) and the Pioneers will look to challenge for the district crown with five returning runners who placed in the top 19 at last year’s district meet.

Millbrook will be led by Nick Hayden. The junior missed earning All-State honors by just one place and two seconds last year, taking 16th in 17:06. Hayden (third in 16:12.90) and junior Peyton Comins (13th in 17:16.50) each earned All-District honors.

Only two teams at the district meet moved on to the Region 4C meet last year due to COVID-19 limitations. Handley nearly grabbed that second spot by finishing 10 points behind Millbrook, and the Judges should be another dangerous team with each of their top seven runners back from last year’s district meet.

Handley will be led by senior Nico Schianchi, a Class 4 state qualifier who placed fifth at the district meet in 16:40.40. Junior Max Ware (ninth) and sophomore Garrett Stickley (12th) are also back after earning All-District honors last year.

Sherando no longer has the services of James Harris, The Winchester Star Boys’ Cross Country Runner of the Year in 2018 and 2019. The Warriors do bring back their other four scoring runners from the district meet though, including All-District runner and junior Ben Freilich (14th).

The qualifying process for the Region 4C meet will go back to the way it was before COVID-19. The top four teams and top 15 individuals from the district meet advance.

The Clarke County boys have three runners back who scored points for the team at the Bull Run District meet (fourth) and Region 2B meet (fifth). Senior Colin Moran was the team’s highest finisher at the district meet, taking 12th to earn All-District honors. Ben Fulmer, who led the Eagles at the Region 2B meet, is playing golf this year.

Clarke County adds a sophomore who should make an impact right away. Cal Beckett, a transfer from the Wakefield School, placed third at the Thanksgiving 5K in Stephens City last year in 17:58.4.

Defending Bull Run District champion Madison County had three underclassmen who placed in the top 13 at last year’s district meet.

The top four teams and anyone else in the top 15 advances to the Region 2B meet.

Handley, James Wood, Sherando and Clarke County will all open their season on Aug. 28 at the Central Invitational held at Fairview Park in Woodstock. Millbrook will also open on Aug. 28 at the Great Meadow Invitational in The Plains.

James Wood

Coach: Matthew Lofton, second year.

Last year: Class 4 Northwestern District champions; second in Region 4C; seventh in Class 4 state.

Key losses: Chris White, Jimmy Burdock

Key returnees: Nathaniel Woshner, Sr.; Liam McDonald, Sr.; Ethan Pratt-Perez, So.; Landon Burdock, So.; Jacob Oliver, Jr.

Key newcomer: Eli Clark, Fr.

Lofton’s outlook: “Losing two members of our top five is going to sting a bit at first, but I think the other boys, including our newcomers, will help fill in the gaps. Obviously, I’d love to return the team to the state meet, but I think making it out of the district will be tough this year as the other local schools should have very solid boys’ teams.”

Millbrook

Coach: Jamie McCarty, second year.

Last year: Second in Class 4 Northwestern District; third in Region 4C.

Key loss: Chance Crosen

Key returnees: Nick Hayden, Jr.; Peyton Comins, Jr.; Kai Johnson, Jr.; Carter Johnson, Sr.; Nolan Myers, Sr.

Key newcomers: Carter Luden, So.

McCarty’s outlook: “The guys have had a great summer of training. We feel like our depth and our pack will be the team’s strength. Qualifying the team for states is the goal, and will always be tough in our region.”

Handley

Coach: Mark Stickley, 19th year.

Last year: Third in Class 4 Northwestern District.

Key losses: Jack Smith, Logan Coffelt.

Key returnees: Nico Schianchi, Sr.; Ryan Stickley, Sr.; Garrett Stickley, So.; Max Ware, Jr.; Pierce Francis, Jr.; Will Pardue, So.; Elliott Redcay, So.; Brendan Love, Sr.; Carter Bessette, So.

Key newcomers: Jack Justice, Fr.

Stickley’s outlook: “I feel very good about our boys’ team. We are returning our entire top 7 from the district meet and have some other guys who are fighting for those spots. It’s also nice to have two All-State runners — Nico (indoor 1,600) and Ryan (outdoor 400) which helps with our overall experience. I feel we should be competitive in an always tough district and hopefully can challenge for the district title. It’s nice to have a normal summer to lead into the season with a better base than last year.”

Sherando

Coach: Megan Roberts, fourth year.

Last year: Sixth in Class 4 Northwestern District.

Key losses: James Harris, Eric Sheetz.

Key returnees: Ben Freilich, Jr.; Justin Dante, Sr.; Dylan McGraw, So.; Camden Palmer, Sr.; Connor Sanders, So.

Key newcomers: Jed Bell, Fr.; Ryan Toomey, Fr.

Roberts’ outlook: “We are fairly young, with underclassmen outnumbering upperclassmen. Freshmen and sophomores will be learning the ropes of a full season with invitationals this year, so it’s nice to have Ben, Justin and Camden to help guide them. Those juniors and seniors, plus Connor and Dylan, came out of a great track season motivated to train hard this summer and their work ethic is motivating our newcomers as well. I think the strength of this team will be that the top 5, possibly the top 7, will be within a minute of Ben.”

Clarke County

Coach: Jeff Webster, seventh year.

Last year: Fourth in the Bull Run District; fifth in Region 2B.

Key losses: Daniel Lai, Evan Hanley.

Key returnees: Colin Moran, Sr.; James Dalton, Jr.; Matthew Stroot, So.; Chapin Turkel, So.

Key newcomers: Cal Beckett, So. (transfer from Wakefield School); Jackson Ellis, Fr.; Aidan Kreeb, Fr.; Luke LaMaster, Fr.; Jacob Kitner, Fr.

Webster’s outlook: “We have a large incoming freshmen class of running talent. Cal joins us as a sophomore, and we return last year’s No. 2 runner Colin Moran who is our only senior. All things considered, we have a very young team, but one that has the potential to be exceedingly competitive at the regional and likely the state level.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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