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Stanly’s YVC cross-country teams catch stride into 2018 season

Four Yadkin Valley Conference cross-country teams from Stanly County get ready as the regular-season schedule opens this week.

Albemarle

First-year head coach Randy Dunbar said the Bulldogs return two runners from last season’s team. Senior Dylan Bird returns on the men’s side while junior Kellyn Combs will run for the women’s squad.

Two promising newcomers Dunbar mentioned for the Bulldogs include freshman Cohen Whitley and junior Isaiah Stockdale.

Currently, the Bulldogs do not have enough runners to compete in the team events, according to Dunbar, who said Albemarle is focusing more on the runners as individuals. He added the goals for the season are to have Albemarle’s runners qualify as individuals for regional.

“We are working hard to  gain speed while avoiding injury,” Dunbar said.

Gray Stone

The Knights enter the 2018 season as the defending YVC champs for men’s and women’s cross country. Six men and three women runners finished as regional runners-up as well. The program has a history of having large numbers, in upwards of 100 runners.

This season, Gwen Lanning and Rick Johnson will pass their leadership of the sport to new coach Sherri Swaringen. She previously coached middle school running clubs and cross country teams in her career.

As the new coach, I’m excited to share my love for long distance running with students at Gray Stone,” Swaringen said. “I am excited to see how that experience transitions to Gray Stone’s high school teams. Running has been a passion of mine for many years sparked by the continuous determination to improve each run. This season, I hope to ignite that same spark for the talented students I have the pleasure to coach.”

The new coach said the Gray Stone women look strong early this season after the pre-conference meet. Jean Holman finished first overall for the Knights.

As the bar has been set high in previous years, we anticipate nothing less,” Swaringen said.

Seniors Lillie Austin, Ava Sangster, Gracie Stinnett and Jillian Scardina are experienced runners showing much improvement with each practice, according to Swaringen. Also returning are juniors Avery Carman, Danielle Werts, Sara Bruinsma and Macy Abramson.

“Our freshman runners are making their presence known and we look forward to seeing what they can achieve this fall,” Swaringen said.

On the men’s side, the new Knights coach said Gray Stone “is extremely determined and motivated” despite losing five top seniors last season.

Returning this season are seniors Noah Maness, Hunter Smith and Dylan Tuzenew. Swaringen said with the help of Knights’ strength and conditioning coach Brian Long, the men runners “are hitting the weight room to improve their explosive starts as well as overall muscle memory and conditioning to maintain stability for the entirety of each race.”

Others to keep an eye on for Gray Stone include Alec Barbetto, Duncan Bryson, Josh Klein and Silang Jia.

Swaringen said she shared a quote from baseball coach Don Zimmer with the team this season because of the number of unknowns going in.

“ ‘What you lack in talent can be made up with desire, hustle and giving 110 percent all the time.’  The end goal is to win, but the training process is what will develop endurance runners, fierce competitors and an unstoppable cohesive team,” Swaringen said.

North Stanly

Teresa Davis enters her 29th season as the Comets’ head coach with a number of young runners competing for North this season.

On the men’s side, five freshmen finished in the top 22 in last week’s preseason YVC meet: Clay Hatley (fourth), Nichoals McClure (fifth), Kasey Smith (17th), Hayden Furr (18th) and Kaleb Burrage (22nd). Another of the team’s top seven, freshman Koby Poole, did not run in the pre-season meet because of a conflict with soccer. North has one senior on the men’s team in C.J. Crawford.

The women’s squad for North has a blend of both younger and more experienced runners. At the preseason meet, freshman Lexi Goode finished third while senior Taylor Burleson took ninth place. The other three top finishers for North were sophomores Andi Billingsley, Colbie Lentz and Milena Hernandez.

North’s women also have four seniors on the team in Devyn Eury, Skylar Medline, Abby Roseman and Malia Selke.

South Stanly

The new cross-country coach for the high school Bulls has been coaching the South Stanly Middle runners since the team’s inception four years ago.

Michael Curlee will coach the Bulls in 2018 with Kristi Hedrick as his assistant.

South had 15 runners last season, but in 2018 the Bulls should have more than double that number for both teams.

“There is strength in numbers and Coach Hedrick and I are impressed with the interest the kids are showing thus far in the sport,” Curlee said.

Curlee said 2018 will be “a building year for the team” but added the coaching staff “definitely feels we will be competitive.”