The Van-Far boys and girls cross country program began their season on a high note having one Top-15 runner in the extremely tough Mexico Invitational race held last Saturday.
Senior Sam Hazel finished within a minute of his best time last season, taking 15th place out of 91 runners at 6:33.9. He missed 14th place by just .6 seconds as he couldn’t overcome Mexico’s Dylan Kronk.
“He finished within a minute of his best time from last year so I expect he will really improve on that as the year goes,” said Van-Far head coach Kris Cross.
Newcomer Jameal Troy, a senior, was second on the team as he placed 64th with a time of 7:46.6. The rest of the field included Cayden Caldwell (8:06.5), Caden Wilburn (8:28.9), Ennis Childes (9:40.3), and Jayson Orr (9:58.6).
As a team, the Indians placed 14th overall.
“The rest of the team did great; for some of them it was their first meet ever and it was a very hot and humid day so I was very happy with the effort that was put out by all of the kids,” Cross said.
In the girls race, Maddie McAfee was the lone Lady Indian who competed. She placed 54th in a large field of 67 runners with a time of 29:25.09.
All runners are set for their next meet, which will be hosted by Van-Far on Tuesday, September 4.
Mark Twain, Wellsville, and North Callaway will also compete in Vandalia.
“We are looking forward to having our meet at home next Tuesday and seeing how much we start improving…I do think they (boys) have a good chance to win the meet for themselves as a team. It’s always fun to run on your own course in front of your own fans. All in all, I think it will be a good meet.”
When at full strength, this year’s boys program has eight total runners.
Though they will be without all-state runner Lathyn McMorris, who graduated in May, this year’s Indians will be led by Sam Hazel.
Hazel just missed qualifying for last year’s state championships as he took 17th overall in districts.
“I expect Sam to have a very good season,” Cross noted.
Newcomer Jameal Troy has been running with Hazel in practice and expects to make an impact.
The senior was last in cross country in 8th grade in the Chicago, Ill. area, though he most recently competed in track and field. Other contributors include Jayson Orr, Ethan Winders, Caden Caldwell, Ennis Childs, Caden Wilburn, and Rylee Hanson.
One challenge for this group of Indians is that new enrollment classifications have moved them to Class 2, though their new district will feature familiar schools. A lot of their opponents are larger schools they already face in the EMO Conference.
On the girls side, the Lady Indians have just two runners, but both are returning from the inaugural season.