Cross Country runners ready to go

Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

It’s a rebuilding year for the Gatlinburg-Pittman cross country team. 

That doesn’t mean it will be a bad one.

“We’re young but we have a shot,” said Highlanders coach Rick Cross. “Boys, if they work hard they can take care of business. ... By the end of the season, (the girls will) hopefully qualify for the state again.”

Cross will get a good look at both his teams today in the first meet in Sevier County this season in Gatlinburg. The Highlanders will welcome Pigeon Forge, Seymour, The King’s Academy and Northview to town. Cross is trying to qualify a team for the state championships for the 23rd time in his career this fall. The Highlanders are one of several teams wondering how 2013 will look.

Cross’ boys lost five out of its top seven from 2012. Leading the pack will be Cole Fuller, Andy Troutman, Ben Roberts, Will McMahan, Kenny Gaskin and Landon Reagan. Only Reagan is a senior in that group.

“The biggest challenge is just getting the pacing off one another,” Cross said. “Last year we had a 30-second difference between one through seven. This year it’s more like three minutes. We’ve got to cut that down.”

Cross is seeing tight pacing in practice on the girls side. He sees a lot of talent among a group that includes Lyndsey Myers, Kayla Carr, Mackinley McMahan, Sharee Reagan, Breanna Shedd, Summer Wegworth, Claire Ballentine and Kylie Loveday.

In Sevierville, Dan Hanlon, who coaches Sevier County with Zac Weaver, is also looking for new boys to step up. The Smoky Bears lost their top three runners from last year but are looking for contributions from Tyler Hounshell, Cory Collins, Zac Sakasci, Devin George, Kevin Chandler and Morgan Jenkins.

Hanlon has a solid group of girls returners in Kasey Funderburg, Shay Baggett, Skye McCarter, Emily Davis and Roslyn Moyers. He’s also seen some promise from freshmen Gwenyn Grapperhous and Andrea Gossett.

Pigeon Forge coach Greg Foreman has a good mix of runners thanks to the biggest team he’s ever had. Foreman had 21 athletes join the team this fall. Some are pure runners, while others are using the sport to cross-train.

“I think we’re providing something, whether it’s your main sport or whether you’re just doing it to stay in shape for your main sport, giving kids the opportunity to use this sport in whichever way possible,” he said.

Former region champ Sara Caldwell leads the girls while the boys will be paced by Isaac Frye, Gavin Hutchins, and Matthew Kieta.

Seymour coach Richard Allen pointed to his team’s senior leadership as a strength in 2013. The boys are led by Damon Hall and Patrick Schumacher while the girls have Blakely Graham leading the pack. All three have competed for four years at the varsity level.

“It’s always good to have seniors help guide the others,” Allen said.