The Halifax County High School cross country runners are back with their official meet scheduled for Wednesday at Anglers Park in Danville, with races set to start at 5 p.m.
This year’s squad is mostly made up of many returning seniors, juniors and sophomores, but also has four new Comet riders joining the squad.
Coach David Riddle will return as the boys ‘coach and coach Michelle Palmore will be the girls’ coach again this season.
“Our guy’s team has had at least 7-8 veterans coming back every year, and this year will be the same,” said Riddle.
Palmore also said: “I’m excited because we have a great group of women who bring a lot of experience to the team.”
Will Van Opstal has four years of experience to contribute and Ethan Kirkhart is in his second year with the team.
“Both were in the top three all season last year so hopefully the success will help spread to the rest of the squad,” said Riddle.
He added: “The rest of the team is new but shows a lot of promise. CJ DeGraw, Justin Pool, Henry Midkiff and Preston Simpson are already running relatively close to the leading group. Trevor Pope, Erik Hudgins and Colin Saunders all started a little later with the group but are already showing promise as well. This group has a ton of potential once they have their racing legs under them.
Riddle was also delighted to see a group of eight students, including Brandon Heddings, Brennan Hunt, Joel Layne and Cole Johnson, come to train and gain experience with college training.
“They’ll get a mix of experience both competing in JV and college level events,” Riddle added.
Seniors Lydia Wenzel and Ashley Irby will captain the women’s cross country team, and this is their fourth year on the team.
“Lydia is still one of our best runners, and she goes to work and pushes herself every day in training. We saw Ashley improve dramatically last year in the cropped season, so we can’t wait to see her save even more time this year, ”said Palmore.
She also said that they have five juniors, whom she called the “core of our team” and that they bring years of experience.
The juniors of the team are Kate Bishop, Morgan Crenshaw, Jenna Hall, Jaci Parham and Mallory Salley.
Crenshaw has been with Team Comet since eighth grade, and Palmore said she pushed herself into training and landed among the top riders every time.
Palmore also praised Hall’s consistency with the best race times and said, “I really think this year she can be one of our best girls in competition.”
Parham’s season was cut short last year due to a hip injury, so Palmore said they were “keeping an eye on it, but she came back more competitive than ever.”
Kate Bishop is new to the team, and Palmore said she was the top runner in training.
Another new member of the team that Palmore looks forward to developing this year is tenth grader Alayna Newby.
The team will be looking to get back on track after their season was cut short and then moved to spring last season due to COVID-19.
According to Riddle, last season was all about getting a season for the veterans and trying to do their best given the circumstances.
“This season we are looking to regain the success that has been associated with this team in the past,” added Riddle.
Palmore said, “I’m excited for this season for a number of reasons. First off, I’m so glad we can have a season because of COVID, and Coach Riddle and I are doing everything we can to make sure we’re able to finish it strong. Overall we have a strong women’s team, and if things continue as they are, I really believe our team can win districts. We definitely have this ability, and I’m excited to see improvements across the board and plenty of RP throughout the season. “
“Coach Palmore and I are happy with the start of things. After having had very little pre-season training with the team due to COVID last year, we’ve had more time and seem to be better prepared for the start of things on August 25 at Anglers Park in Danville ” , Riddle concluded.