By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s men’s and women’s cross country teams will open their seasons Saturday at Swain.
“Practice has been going really well,” Coach Adam Phillips said. “The kids are very dedicated. We’ve had great numbers although we’ve had to deal with the elements – the heat and the rain. Coach (Nathan) Frizzell and I are both excited.”
The men and women both finished third last year in the Mountain Six Conference. Returning juniors Caleb Phillips and Lily Buenting were all-conference for the men and women, respectively.
“We feel really good,” Coach Phillips said. “We’ve got some key runners back.”
Also returning for the women are senior Maia Wilde and juniors Sophia Ammons and Lydia Norman.
Other returnees for the men include seniors Juan Guerrero, Jose Ramos, Mitchell Russotti, Ben Saunooke and Parker Smith, juniors Henry Hanks and Coleman Hopfinger and sophomore Drew Poston.
Joining the women’s squad are juniors Jainy Hoang and Vanessa Saldago, sophomore Vivian Bell, and freshmen Chesney Coggins and Morgana McCullough.
New members of the men’s team include seniors Sam Budden and Sam Hudson and freshmen Jack Duggins, Zeb Mathis, Davey McCoy and Aidan Menickelli.
Realignment means a move to 3-A and the Mountain Seven Conference. That’s not all bad, according to Coach Phillips, as SM is no longer in the same league as perennial power Brevard.
“I think we stack up very well with the teams in the conference,” he said. “We are looking to compete for conference championships.”
Also moving up from 2-A are East Henderson, Franklin and Pisgah. Schools remaining 3-A in the conference are North Henderson, Tuscola and West Henderson.
“Franklin is always going to be there,” Coach Phillips said. “West traditionally has a strong program. North Henderson has a good program. Really it’s wide open, but those are the programs we have to worry about in competition.”
The only home meet is the annual Watermelon Run on Sept. 22 at the Jackson County Recreation Center in Cullowhee.
“I’m excited to see our kids compete and see how our younger kids respond to their first taste of competition,” Coach Phillips said.
The schedule is as follows:
Aug. 21 – at Swain; 27 – WNC Cross Country Carnival at Hendersonville.
Sept. 2 – at Rabun Gap, Georgia; 8 – at Cherokee; 15 – at Pisgah; 22 – Watermelon Run at Jackson County Recreation Center; 28 – at East Henderson.
Oct. 5 – at Pisgah; 13 – at Hayesville; 19 – MSC Meet at West Henderson.