By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s men’s and women’s cross country teams will open their seasons Saturday in the Western North Carolina Cross Country Carnival at Hendersonville’s Jackson Park.
“Practice has gone really well,” Coach Pam Shuler said. “We had good summer workouts that led into August being very productive. We had to deal with the heat, but we kept morning practices until Monday the 12th. We then went to the afternoon to get acclimated to the heat.”
She said the men’s team is extremely young with one senior and the rest sophomores or freshmen.
The senior is Tyler Watterson, who was all-conference and all-region last year and qualified for the State 2-A Meet.
The men were fifth in the Mountain Six Conference meet last season.
Sophomores returning from that team are Sam Conlin, Brendan Millsaps, Clay Pate, Ben Saunooke and Parker Smith. Freshmen are Henry Hanks and Caleb Phillips.
Shuler said the women’s team is also young although it does have more upperclassmen than the men.
Senior returnees from a team that placed fourth in the MSC Meet, fifth in the regionals and 13th at state are Anna Morgan and Lucy McRae.
Morgan was all-conference in 2017 but missed last year’s league meet with an injury.
They are joined by senior newcomer Becky Pechmann.
Juniors are returnee Ashton Buchanan and newcomer Carisa Tilley.
Sophomores are returnee Maia Wilde and newcomers Hadley Huffman and Emma Jutte.
Freshmen are Lily Buenting and Lydia Norman.
“I’m really excited,” Shuler said. “They are running really well. They are stepping up to the challenge of trying to be as competitive as possible in a really difficult conference and difficult region.”
For Shuler, the season goals are clear.
“We want to win conference and region and go to state and be competitive,” she said.
On the women’s side, Shuler expects Brevard and Hendersonville to be the toughest competition.
As for the men, “It’s all out Franklin and Brevard,” she said.
SM will host the annual Watermelon Run on Sept. 4, at the Jackson County Recreation Center in Cullowhee. That will also be the site of the MSC Meet on Oct. 23.
The schedule is as follows:
Aug. 24 – WNC Cross Country Carnival at Hendersonville; 29 – at Rabun Gap, Georgia.
Sept. 4 – Watermelon Run at Jackson County Recreation Center; 11 – Bearcat Invite at Hendersonville (Flat Rock Park); 14 – Cherokee Invitational; 18 – White Squirrel Run at Brevard; 26 – Carney Classic at Hayesville.
Oct. 3 – Black Bear Bolt at Pisgah; 9 – at Robbinsville; 23 – Mountain Six Conference Meet at Jackson County Recreation Center.
Nov. 2 – Western 2-A Regionals at Newton; 9 – State 2-A Meet at Kernersville.