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BOYS XC PREVIEW: South's Peppenhorst aims for school record
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South Forsyth junior Ryan Peppenhorst runs across the school campus during practice this week. Peppenhorst hopes to log over 600 miles this season, along the way trying to break the school record and crack the top 10 at the state championship meet. - photo by John McWilliams

Ryan Peppenhorst will run 650 miles until the state cross country meet is over on November 9.

The South Forsyth junior cross country standout knows that if he’s to have a top-10 finish at the state meet this fall that he must continue to run, so he trains his body for a 6-7 mile trek every day during the season.

"I’ve always loved running," Peppenhorst said. "I’ve always loved the competition of it and running is one of the easiest sports to get that competition."

Peppenhorst was exceptional as a sophomore last year, as he touted four top-15 finishes, including a career-best second-place finish at the Region 6-6A meet with a time of 17:19.27, just five seconds later than the champion, who has since graduated.

"It’s not fun getting second," Peppenhorst said. "I was happy getting second in the end, but I just realized how close I was to actually winning it all and getting to that final position. It just makes me want to work harder from then on out to try to get that [first-place finish] next year or next race."

Although he would like to claim the region title, Peppenhorst has his sights set on the program record, held at 15:43 and is only 28 seconds from accomplishing his goal. He finished the Asics Invitational in October last season with a time of 16:11, topping his previous personal record by 23 seconds.

"I’m really shooting for first in region, but personally I’m trying to go sub-16 this year," Peppenhorst said. "I’m shooting for our school’s record. If the courses run well and I’m able to stay healthy and keep doing well…I have a good chance this year, and if not, I’ll try again next year."

South head coach Van Munn is confident in Peppenhorst’s abilities and thinks his star runner is poised for an exceptional season. Despite finishing 49th out of 228 runners in the Class 6A state meet, Peppenhorst was less than a minute away from the top-10.

"I expect that he’ll be No. 1 at region and very competitive at state," Munn said. "Hopefully, [he will get] top-10 at state. He’s really come on and works real hard and he’s just so competitive that when he sees somebody in front of him, he wants to go get them."

"He’s very talented and just athletically he’s gifted, so that helps. He’s been a soccer player for a number of years so he’s active all the time, but he’s competitive attitude is as much as anything. His competitive attitude overcomes any lack of training or fitness or whatever. He really works hard and races hard. On race day, he really gets after it.

"He came in as a freshman and has been our No. 1 guy ever since. He’s come in and has just gotten better every year."