Preview: How will local XC teams fare in 2020?

Cross country season started Monday for five Chatham County high schools

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 11/18/20

With high school sports gradually returning, the News + Record is previewing local teams across Chatham County, from Pittsboro to Siler City to Bear Creek to Chapel Hill.

In alphabetical order, …

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Preview: How will local XC teams fare in 2020?

Cross country season started Monday for five Chatham County high schools

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With high school sports gradually returning, the News + Record is previewing local teams across Chatham County, from Pittsboro to Siler City to Bear Creek to Chapel Hill.

In alphabetical order, here’s a breakdown for local cross country teams, who along with volleyball teams were the first to start their 2020-21 coronavirus-altered seasons with official competitions on Monday.

Chatham Central Bears

Head coach:  Eric Patin, second year

2019 highlights: Third in men’s Yadkin Valley 1A Conference title meet, 10th in men’s NCHSAA 1A Midwest Regional meet

2020 outlook: The Bears will be deep on the men’s side with five returning seniors plus several strong freshmen. The women’s team needs a few more consistent point-scorers, but Patin said the top of their lineup, which includes all-conference returner Kailey Green, is “very strong.”

Top men’s returners: senior Parker Crowley is an “anchor” for the team, Patin said, and barely missed qualifying for the 1A state championship meet last fall. Other possible returners include sophomore Travis Crissman, junior Sawyer Elkins and seniors Chandler Wilkes and Jacob Ziblay.

Top men’s newcomers: Jacob and Seth Gilliland will both be “strong additions as freshmen,” Patin said.

Top women’s returners: sophomore Kailey Green earned all-conference honors as a freshman after finishing sixth in the conference meet. Junior Chloe Fuquay could also return.

Top women’s newcomers: N/A

Full schedule

Chatham Charter Knights

Head coach: Gary Oakley

2019 highlights: second in men’s Central Tar Heel 1A Conference title meet, sixth in men’s NCHSAA 1A Mideast Regional meet

2020 outlook: In 2019, the men’s team got a big boost from in-season soccer players who also joined the cross country roster. Without soccer going on this fall, those contributors “haven’t been as invested,” Oakley said, and the Knights’ top two middle school prospects also opted not to run. So he expects 2020 to be more of a rebuilding year with some strong juniors. Chatham Charter only has two women’s runners, so they will compete individually in meets this season.

Top men’s returners: Junior Brandon McKoy had an excellent 2019 season; he was an all-conference runner, finished second in the Knights’ conference and 1A regional meet and qualified for states. Oakley said junior Caleb Kolb, relatively new to the sport, is “very reliable and hard-working.” He finished 14th in the conference meet in his first year running cross country.

Top men’s newcomers: N/A

Top women’s returners: N/A

Top women’s newcomers: Freshman Meredith Reece is positive, motivated and “fast for having no experience,” Oakley said. Adelia Rickman, a junior, is also brand new to the sport. Chatham Charter didn’t field a women’s team last season.

Full schedule | Previous coverage

Jordan-Matthews Jets

Head coaches: Tyrone Hanner (men's) and Michael Milian (women's)

2019 highlights:Third in men’s PAC 7 2A Conference meet and fifth in women’s, eighth in men’s NCHSAA 2A Mideast Region meet and ninth in women’s

2020 outlook: The Jets were a solid mid-tier team last season that relied heavily on their top men’s and women’s runners for points. That worked at the conference level but hurt them in regionals; this season, J-M wants to develop more depth to fill out the bottom of its scoring lineups.

Top men’s returners: Jacorey Coats emerged as J-M’s top men’s runner by a mile. He was runner-up in the Jets’ conference meet, their top regional runner and their only state title meet qualifier.

Top men’s newcomers: N/A

Top women’s returners: All-conference runner Clarissa Morales was the standout here, as she finished a team-high 10th in the conference meet but struggled a bit in regionals.

Top women’s newcomers: N/A

Full schedule

Northwood Chargers

Head coach: Cameron Isenhour, second season

Assistant coach: Tanelle Smith, first season

2019 highlights: Second in men’s Big 8 3A Conference meet and fourth in women’s, second in men’s NCHSAA 3A Mideast Regional meet and sixth in women’s, eighth in men’s state title meet

2020 outlook: The Charger men are “more ready than ever before,” Isenhour said. Northwood returns six runners who represented the team at last fall’s 3A state championships and has legitimate title aspirations. After an injury-plagued 2019, Northwood’s women also return plenty of experience; they’re “tough as nails,” Isenhour said, and hoping to making the cut at regionals — which they narrowly missed last season — to qualify for the state title meet.

Top men’s returners: Seniors Malachi Levy and Carter Pippin, junior Colin Henry and sophomore Christian Glick were all-conference picks in 2019 — and Levy and Henry finished among the top 35 at the state title meet. Senior Glenn Porter and junior Andrew Kimbrel also return.

Top men’s newcomers: Sophomore Jackson Adams missed most of the 2019 season with an injury but is healthy now; junior Patrick McCaw and freshman Ethan Becker are new to the team, too.

Top women’s returners: Junior Caroline Murrell, a reigning all-conference and the only state title qualifier for the Northwood women, is the star here. Seniors Tessa Yell and Liv Riggsbee and junior Ella Hennessey have experience, too.

Top women’s newcomers: The Charger women are looking for depth — Isenhour thinks freshman Anna Bolejack, sophomore Sarah Barbour and junior Emma Serrano have a shot to provide it.

Full schedule | Previous coverage

Woods Charter Wolves

Head coach: Karen Hawkins, first season

2019 highlights: First in men’s Central Tar Heel 1A Conference meet and second in women’s, fourth in men’s NCHSAA 1A Mideast Regional meet and fifth in women’s, 14th in men’s state title meet

2020 outlook: Hawkins, a former runner at N.C. State, expects a “fairly even mixture” of veteran and young runners in her debut season. The men’s and women’s top returners are underclassmen, but several seniors will be just as important to the Wolves’ overall finishes in meets this season. In a strong conference, Hawkins is excited to “see how much we can grow as a program this year and beyond.”

Top men’s returners: Sophomore Wiley Sikes placed third at last fall’s conference meet and finished among the top 30 runners at the 1A state title meet as a freshman. Senior Primo Costa was a top-15 runner in the 2019 conference meet, and other returners include: senior Kyle Howarth, sophomore Noah Hyman and senior Tobin Berrier.

Top men’s newcomers: N/A

Top women’s returners: Sophomore Maddie Sparrow was a top-25 finisher at last year’s state meet as a freshman. Sophomore Chloe Richard has been “one of the most consistent” in attending summer and fall workouts, Hawkins said, while senior Samana Young was a top-10 finisher in conference in 2019 and senior Ember Penney also returns.

Top women’s newcomers: Freshman Ellie Poitras placed 22nd in the 2019 AAU National Cross Country Championships and will contribute immediately for the Wolves.

Full schedule | Previous coverage

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.


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