NEW PARIS — National Trail Cross Country looks to have strong fall season, as the boys aim for a third-straight Cross County Conference title and seek to send the team to the state cross country meet.
The girls continue to hunt for an elusive Cross County Conference title as the CCC continues to be a strong league in cross country.
National Trail head coach James Byrd said the program has set its sights on lofty goals but believes both teams have the opportunity to achieve those goals as they infuse returning runners with some talented new runners.
The boys will be led by Mickee Utley who will be the team’s lone senior, but they have plenty of returning talent as five juniors will help in the leadership role. Those juniors are Peyton Harrison, Lane Unger, Weston haws, Josh Cook and Austin Green.
For the girls, seniors Hannah Wellman and Natalie Hunt come back to the team searching for the Cross County Conference title they have been close to winning the past couple of years. The pair will also receive plenty of help from talented sophomore runner Jalynn Byrd.
Byrd believes the Bob Shull invitational on Aug. 30 is always a good measuring stick for his team.
“I always like to look at the first meet, especially this year because I have a young team,” Byrd said. “I have seven freshman on the boys’ side and two important freshman on the girls’ so I like to look at the Bob Schull Invite as a jumping off point to see where we are compared to our other competition.”
Byrd gave plenty of reasons why he believes both teams will be able to achieve the high standards the program has set the past couple of years — starting with the work done in the off-season. “Coming off the summer I think we have a lot kids who a put in the time over the summer to meet some of those goals. We got a really good squad on both sides and I think we have the chemistry and work ethic to make our goals happen. Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of work to do to get where I want us to be. They are definitely putting in the work though.”
Byrd says he needs his team members to continue to develop a better understanding of their own pace and continue to develop a feel for the pace of races to achieve the best times possible. He said a vital part of cross country is racing yourself as well as those around you.
Byrd said one change that could come to boys’ side this season is the inclusion of pack running or team running, something that could allow them to finally make it out of the regional as a team.
Byrd this year’s boys’ team is uniquely set up to experiment with pack running. “I feel like our boys team is really unique in the sense we have six of seven guys who can all run about the same. We are unique in that sense, so we may try to do more pack running this year which would be something new for us.”
Rounding out the girls’ roster are Evan Byrd, Lily Carpenter, and Casey Thompson.
The boys’ team is rounded out by Adam Eyler, Ian Miller, Travis Hunt and Nick Wellman.