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BOYS CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules
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Forsyth County News

FORSYTH CENTRAL

Coach: Shannon Hays (First season)

Key returners: Max Warner (Jr.), Charlie Webb (Jr.), Cole Gizelbach (Jr.), Will Hasse (Jr.), Reese Mitchell (So.)

Key newcomers: Austin Campbell (Sr.), Nico Seaton (So.)

Season outlook: The Bulldogs begin the 2014 campaign ranked No. 4 in Class AAAAA, and with good reason. Central returns six of their top seven runners, including junior Max Warner, last year’s state runner-up in the 3200 meters. Warner, who finished fourth at the Region 7-AAAAA meet, holds a personal record of 16:21. Webb (17:35), Gizelbach (17:36), Hasse (17:42) and Mitchell (17:59) give coach Shannon Hays a deep, balanced roster. "We need the ‘Central Pack’ to work together with a strong pack mentality," Hays said. "We have a great pack two through five, but we need that group to improve." Campbell and Seaton, who run the 800 meters for Central’s track team, join Hays’s cross country program. "We are chasing down a region title, a state podium finish and are putting ourselves in the mix for a state championship," Hays said. "Winning a state championship is about preparation meeting opportunity. Central is doing the preparation to give ourselves the opportunity to make history again."

NORTH FORSYTH

Coach: Matt Aycock (First season)

Key returners: Ben Cochran (Sr.), Saul Renteria (So.), Micah Lonholm (So.)

Key newcomers: Anthony Verdirame (Fr.)

Season outlook: Matt Aycock, an assistant coach with North’s varsity girls basketball team, takes on a new role with the Raiders’ cross country teams. North’s boys finished seventh out of eight teams at last year’s Region 6-AAAAAA meet with an average time more than a minute slower than the top two finishers (South, West). Ben Cochran set a personal best at that meet, finishing in 17 minutes, 25 seconds. Saul Renteria (17:37) was the only other North runner in the top 40 at the region meet. "Right now [we have] the leadership of Ben Cochran and some young runners that are ready to make a splash," Aycock said. "We need to do a better job of finishing together and not having such a big gap between the top couple of runners and the next two or three."

PINECREST ACADEMY

Coach: Melissa Nevarez (First season)

Key returners: Garrett Ruf (Jr.), Grant Mulac (Jr.)

Key newcomers: Joel Parker (Jr.)

Season outlook: Nevarez said the Paladins could have their best team since she started working with the program as an assistant three years ago. Pinecrest returns veterans Ruf (best time of 19:36) and Mulac (19:39) and adds several freshmen who ran for the school’s middle school program. Those additions, combined with Ruf, Mulac and other upperclassmen returning stronger, should help the Paladins enjoy more success this season. As for what Pinecrest still needs to work on? "We can always improve our times to be more competitive at the varsity level," Nevarez said.

SOUTH FORSYTH

Coach: Van Munn (Third season)

Key returners: Ryan Peppenhorst (Sr.), Reed Vaughn (Sr.), Matthew Patterson (So.), Trevor Kane (So.), Luke Francis (So.), Zach Coleman (Sr.), Nicholas Warner (So.), Kyle McKean (Jr.)

Key newcomers: Andre Dubois (So.), Josh Patterson (Fr.)

Season outlook: Last year’s Region 6-AAAAAA champions return nine of the program’s top 10 runners, including senior Ryan Peppenhorst (15:37 personal best), the individual region champion. Four other War Eagles ran under 16 minutes, 30 seconds at an ASICs meet last October—Vaughn (16:13), Patterson (16:16), Kane (16:28) and Francis (16:30), which helped to set a team average record. Munn said newcomers Dubois and Patterson are in their first year with the cross country team but both could end up in South’s top 10. "[Our] success depends on runners four through 10," Munn said. "The boys have several seniors who need to have break-through years." Warner (16:55), McKean (17:02) and Coleman (17:16) give South eight runners who can score well in any given race.

WEST FORSYTH

Coach: Clayton Tillery (Eighth season)

Key returners: John Green (Jr.), Brian Skoglind (Sr.), Daniel Sexton (Sr.), Will Harper (Sr.), Matt Bissett (Jr.), Tristan Harding (Sr.), Austin Dominique (Jr.), Alex Miranda (Sr.)

Key newcomers: Nick Lyon (Fr.), Brock Nordin (Fr.)

Season outlook: Going into last season, West would’ve been happy just to qualify for the state meet. After a few early meets, though, head coach Clayton Tillery took a step back and realized that the Wolverines’ goals needed to be set higher. Tillery’s boys ended up finishing second in the Region 6-AAAAAA meet and 12th in the state meet, the best finish from a team in the region. Green (16:55 personal best) and Skoglind (16:59), the region champion in the 3200 meters, lead West’s returning runners. Three spots remain up for grabs. Tillery said Dominique (19:48) and Miranda (20:08) made huge strides this summer and are pushing Sexton (17:59), Harper (18:00), last year’s junior varsity region champion, and Bissett (18:05). "We have a different caliber of kids this year, and with that comes different expectations," Tillery said. "The motto for this year is ‘Why Not Us?’"