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West Stanly cross-country prepares for 2018 season

The West Stanly women’s cross-country team enters this season set to defend the team’s Rocky River Conference championship, while the Colt men hope to move up from their 2017 runner-up finish.

“All of our runners understand our goal is to win the county and conference meets. They also understand how tough our regional is and what it takes to make the state meet,” West head coach Chad Horn said.

West Stanly women

The Colt women lost two of their top seven to graduation in Hannah Efird and Addisen Rowles; however, the West coaches, including new assistant coach Emily Smith, said they believe the 2018 team has a chance to be the best women’s team in the history of the school.

West returns its No. 1 runner from last season in conference champion and RRC Runner of the Year, senior Pierson McManus. McManus returns as the third fastest cross-country runner in West Stanly history. The senior is nine seconds behind No. 2 Kayla Redmon and 68 seconds behind the school’s all-time leader, Pierson’s older sister, Lefler McManus.

According to the coaches, Pierson McManus and the rest of the Colt women all stepped up their summer training to another level.

“This group of runners made a committment to show back up in August ready to compete at a higher level and they went out this summer and got the job done,” Horn said.

Pierson has enjoyed plenty of company running the miles this summer. The Colts’ top five women looked to be packed tight and running fast to open the season.

McManus will be challenged by fellow seniors Maddie Miller and Brooklyn Simpson. The two seniors are ranked sixth and 12th on the Colts all-time list. Miller, an 800-meter specialist in track, looks to combine the speed of that event with the summer mileage to move up the list. Simpson is a senior who will start the season injury free and in the best shape of her young career, according to the coaches.

Hannah Efird’s place in the top five will be taken by freshman Natalie Almond, one of the top two runners from last year’s West Stanly Middle squad. Almond’s brother, Noah, is a senior on the men’s squad. The coaches said Almond has as much talent as any freshman starting at West and has a strong work ethic.

Joining the West women is sophomore Rachel Efird. who played basketball and softball for the Colts last year. She is 23rd on the all-time list and has run in the top five for West in preseason.

The top seven runners affect scores in cross country, and joining the aforementioned top five will be junior Katherine Pollard, who returns to the sixth spot. She is the 38th fastest runner in West history.

Competition is going on for the team’s seventh spot between several runners. Senior Peyton Hill and junior Annalyce Medline ran eighth and ninth last year, respectively, while junior Kaylee Efird looks to move up into the top seven.

The Colts have two other freshmen besides Almond running well in Aniston Hann and Laney McCollum. Other Colts looking to move up are freshmen Cassidy Scott, McKenzie Whitley, Morgan Whitley and Karsyn Underwood, sophomores Victoria Burleson, Kate Cotton, Anslee Morton, Kylie Howard, Shayla Grismer and Any Perez, junior Elisa Avila and seniors Amy Henry and Kennedy Scott.

West Stanly men

The Colt men cross country team also has the potential to be one of the best squads the school has enjoyed in years. West lost two top runners from last year’s squad, Michael Eudy and Robert Sells, along with last season’s number-two runner, Maverick Baucom.

West had increased numbers of male athletes training to make the top seven, including senior Noah Almond and junior Korbin McNeill. Both are in a battle for the top spot.

Almond has moved up each year and the coaches believe this will be a breakout year for the senior. He finished last year 45th on the top 50 list. McNeill ran four distance events in track last season and stated his goal was to pass Horn’s mark of ninth all time when the West coach was a runner for the Colts.

The Colt men have a freshman whom coaches believe will make an immediate impact. James Shue was one of the top two runners from last year’s Rocky River Middle School meets and has been running up front in early season workouts.

Blayne Morton is another freshman with a great summer of training hoping to make the top seven.

Two other talented juniors that entered the high school program with McNeill are Nathan Brown and Daniel Brattain. Brown made the top 50 list last season and is running strong early. Brattain started last season with an injury which cost him half the season. The staff said he is coming off his best summer of training healthy and will play a vital role if the Colts are to move up in the RRC.

Sophomore Austin Huneycutt was the Colts’ number eight last season but was fast enough to be considered for the top seven; he looks to move into the top five this season.

Senior Graham Tucker took a season of spring track off to concentrate on the drama program at West Stanly, but Tucker hopes to hold on to his top seven spot from the previous season.

Senior Logan Huneycutt is the most improved runner for the second year in a row and looks to gain his spot in the top seven, coaches said.

Two track runners who are playing soccer in the fall are Arturo Zelaya and Leo Martinez; both can make the top seven.

Other runners hoping to move up are freshmen Chayse Huneycutt, Alex Eudy, Camden Misenheimer and Matthew White, sophomores River Dodd, Seth Henry and Toby Troxler, junior Tyler McDonald and seniors Collin Cooper and Chase Clayton.