CHARLOTTE – It’s very early in the cross country season, but the Myers Park boys and girls teams are both looking good already and sure to only get stronger with the return of top runners of the girls side.
The Mustangs recently swept the boys and girls races at the Myers Park Cross Country Invitational, but coach Lamont Hayes knows his team is just scratching the surface
Hayes deals more with the girls team, but was pleased with the boys showing at their home meet on Sept. 1.
Grant Renner won the meet with a run of 17:52, which was nine seconds ahead of junior teammate Tristan Wick.
Wick is the Mustangs top returner from last season and someone Hayes thinks will be running right around 16-minute mark by the end of the year and definitely someone to watch for.
In addition to the frontrunners, the Mustangs had six other runners finish in the top 10. David Foard, Jacob Guzi, Dylan Canipe and Erik Seuster all broke 18:39 at the meet while fellow top-10 finishers Keegan Bader and Carter Whitmore both broke 18:54.
The boys were ranked 25th in the state in Milesplit.com’s ranking, but Hayes thinks they can do better.
“The boys are going to be young, but I think they’ll surprise some people by the end of the season,” he said.
The girls were minus their top two runners from last year in Zoe Dunlap and Joelle Ryan, but got a career day from Cora Cooke, who is a star on the rise.
She set a personal-best at the race, running 19:46, which is the 24th-fastest time in the state this season and a new race record, according to Hayes.
It was also a nearly four minute improvement over last season’s 23:21 Cooke ran in the same event last year.
But that’s how it’s gone for Cooke, who has burst onto the scene after running distances for the first time competitively last year. She was probably the 10th-best runner on the Mustang team last year, but has flourished since, placing second in the 1,000-meter during indoor and in the 1,600 during the outdoor track and field seasons.
“We have been holding her back a little bit,” Hayes said. “She had a good summer after finishing third in the freshman race at New Balance Nationals. She has just taking that momentum.”
The Mustangs, who were ranked No. 10 in the state’s team rankings before the year started, ran away with the girls race as Cooke was joined in the top 10 by Clara Richards, Tyler Brading, Mason Brown, Megan Merritt, Branda Gray, Emma Mae Whitaker, Gracie Landrum and Claire Hargrove.
“We aren’t at full strength right right now with our top two from last year out with minor injuries and our No. 6 or 7 on vacation with her family,” Hayes said. “We’re not probably going to be full strength and go all out until the (Oct. 6 Wendy’s Invitational, located at McAlpine Park in Charlotte). That’s when we’ll get our first look at it.”
Hayes has already had his first look at Cooke, who is turning into a star before his eyes.
“She’s going to surprise some people when she hits McAlpine for the first time this year,” Hayes said. “She’s something. Before she graduates she’ll be a nationally ranked runner, and she has a shot at being the best that’s ever come through Myers Park.”