THE EAST Jackson Comprehensive High School cross country team saw some serious success last season as both the boys’ and girls’ teams qualified for state.
This season, head coach Tomy Sitton wants to push his Eagle squad to improve on that success.
The EJCHS boys’ team earned a fourth place finish in region 8-AAA and a 16th place finish at state. Six runners from last year’s team are returning for the Eagles in 2013, including sub-17 minute juniors Vladik Staples and Noah Huelett.
Also returning are seniors Quenton Rice, Adam Minnick and Bobby Halkes, and sophomore Daniel Reeves.
Sitton also noted that senior Edwin Lopez has emerged as a standout newcomer for the team.
The Lady Eagle runners also finished fourth at region in 2012, then went on to earn a 13th place finish at state.
Seniors Hayleigh Smith and Maegan Davidson will return for their final season of cross country, while Kristin Whitlock and Baylie Brooks will return as juniors. The girls’ team also added two standout newcomers in Annika Cozzens and Delaney Adams.
Sitton said his main goal is to qualify both teams for region, but noted that in a challenging region 8-AAA, that task may prove difficult.
Still, Sitton is intent on establishing his base with athletes who practice and condition in the summer.
NEGA Cross Country Championships
The Eagle boys’ team got their first taste of action last Saturday at Athens Christian in the Northeast Georgia Cross Country Championships.
Sitton refers to the event as the “Big Boy Race,” as he urges his runners to “face the best to gauge where we are at present, and what areas of training we need to increase and polish.”
The Eagles placed 15th out of the twenty teams at the event. The team was led by juniors Noah Hulett (27th) with a time of 17:44 and Vladik Staples (33rd) with a time of 17:56.
Edwin Lopez (99th, 19:47), Quention Rice (103rd, 19:51), and Daniel Reaves (129th, 20:34) rounded out the Eagle top five.
Sitton was especially pleased with the effort of Lopez, as he has been with the team for just over a week.
“Edwin ran with a lot of heart and toughness,” Sitton added.
He also noted improvements in Hulett’s and Staples’ speeds.
“(Hulett and Staples) ran better than last year at this race, and seem to be improving toward their goals of sub-17’s just as they did last fall,” said Sitton.
East Jackson will host its next meet (Eagle Invitational) on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Lamar Murphy Park in Jefferson.
The East Jackson Middle School cross country team will begin its season Saturday, Aug. 31 at the 12th annual Fall Runaway meet at Lamar Murphy Park at 9:45 a.m.