Grant Franceschina, Meyer set to lead Ea­gles cross coun­try

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

Bo­hemia Manor ju­nior Grant Franceshina will aim to im­prove on his show­ing at the 1A State Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onship this fall.

The reign­ing All-County Male Run­ner of the Year hopes to once again chal­lenge for a medal at the state meet fol­low­ing a third-place fin­ish last year.

“He’s just such a hard worker. The way that he’s come along, he’s just ac­cepted that there’s no easy way about things and he just keeps on work­ing,” Ea­gles coach Steve Piz­zulli said. “He’s come out in great shape, he’s al­ready a timed mile down in the 4:40s … He’s been con­sis­tently our top per­former in any­thing dis­tance re­lated so I have noth­ing that leads to be­lieve he won’t be up there fight­ing for [a top spot]. It’s cer­tainly not go­ing to be a cake walk for sec­ond and we hope for a lit­tle bit of luck there and maybe even eke up into a top spot.”

Franceschina’s team­mates, sopho­mores Zachary Laird and Alex Longe­way, in­tend to help the Ea­gles com­pete for a state ti­tle.

Longe­way (sixth place at 2015 state meet) and Laird (14th place) both earned Al­lCounty hon­ors af­ter strong 2015 cam­paigns.

“We’re in a very good spot,” Piz­zulli said. “We’ve just got so much young abil­ity. Our guys are deep and young, which is new ter­ri­tory for us. It hasn’t been like this for a long time.”

On the girls’ side, Bo Manor ju­nior Elle Meyer an­tic­i­pates a strong campaign af­ter she fin­ished fourth at states last year en route to All-County Fe­male Run­ner of the Year hon­ors.

“She’s al­ready ran faster times in time tri­als and work­outs than she did last year,” Piz­zulli said of Meyer. “She’s im­proved upon what was al­ready an out­stand­ing cross coun­try sea­son last year.”

Meyer will be joined by se­nior Tara McDon­ald (2015 All-County) to help form the top of an Ea­gles lineup that could very well chal­lenge for a state crown.

Led by a group of se­niors, the Ris­ing Sun girls’ cross coun­try team will set its sights on an­other high fin­ish af­ter plac­ing third at last sea­son’s 2A East Re­gion Meet.

While the Tigers’ top run­ner, Alanah Bell, is not re­turn­ing, se­niors Emma Wheeler, Ari­ana Wheeler and Danielle Lee are once again suit­ing up to give the squad a group of tal­ented run­ners at the top of the lineup.

“All [three] are al­ready run­ning com­pa­ra­ble times to their per­sonal records set last year, and should help lead the team with their three years of ex­pe­ri­ence,” Ris­ing Sun coach James Burkhardt said. “Will we get the re­gional crown? With a cou­ple key pick­ups, if we don’t get the ti­tle, we will cer­tainly make the other teams work for it.”

Burkhardt an­tic­i­pates fresh­men Grace Harkey, Han­nah Matthews and Ella Bro­phy to battle for the re­main­ing lineup spots af­ter strong time tri­als.

On the boys’ side, the Tigers will look to move past the grad­u­a­tion of Phil Hurm, the team’s only sub-19-minute run­ner from a year ago.

“[The loss of] Phil Hurm, is big, but it al­lows for other ath­letes to re­ally step up and try and take that lead­er­ship role,” Burkhardt said. “[There were five] ath­letes who were a part of that re­gional var­sity team that missed the state berth by 10 points. They don’t want to fail at get­ting there again.”

The Elk­ton boys’ squad, which se­cured a third-place team fin­ish at last year’s 2A East Re­gion Meet—the high­est of any par­tic­i­pat­ing Ce­cil County team—ex­pects to once again qual­ify for states.

Led by the re­turn of All-County run­ner Evan Shrews­bury, a ju­nior, Elks coach Paul Rig­gio be­lieves the pieces are in place for an­other trip to Here­ford.

“We’re a very dif­fer­ent team, ei­ther due to in­jury to one or los­ing three mem­bers of our top seven. So far it’s been slow. The sum­mer was dif­fi­cult for kids, so we’re just get­ting our feet wet and start­ing brand new,” Rig­gio said. “With los­ing so many of last year’s run­ners and com­ing into the sea­son with new faces, you have to teach them a lot more.”

Zach Ner­linger, John Wright, Nolan Clancey and Cameron Spaeth are ex­pected to join Shrews­bury in the lineup.

“They’ve been work­ing to­gether very well,” Rig­gio said.

Per­ryville, mean­while, will field two teams this year that in­tend to race at the 1A State Meet.

Se­nior Ja­cobo Ne­gron and ju­niors Jakob Lewis, Craig Seib­ert and Zach Jer­sheid will join sopho­more Brian Keenan in the pre­sea­son start­ing lineup.

The group will look to make up for the grad­u­a­tion of Matt Sal­va­tore, who earned All-County hon­ors last sea­son.

“He was our last guy who was still in high school that was part of our state cham­pi­onship-win­ning team in 2013,” Pan­thers coach Raissa Moore said of Sal­va­tore. “He did noth­ing but work hard and he did every­thing right to the best that he could. I def­i­nitely think he in­spired some of those boys to fol­low in his foot­steps and sur­pass what he was able to do.”

In­clud­ing Keenan, Per­ryville will fea­ture sev­eral run­ners who were fresh­men last year.

“We have a lot of po­ten­tial over there and I don’t ex­pect the top seven to be the same top seven ev­ery week,” Moore said. “We have po­ten­tial for more depth on that side of the team.”

Moore hopes that a young Pan­thers girls’ team can find sim­i­lar suc­cess as their male coun­ter­parts.

Sopho­more Ellie Kuhn (All-County hon­or­able men­tion) and fresh­man Gabriella Scram­lin will line up with se­niors Han­nah Camp­bell and Han­nah Hen­son and ju­nior Sky­lar Van­der­weile.

“We’ll call it cau­tiously op­ti­mistic,” Moore said of the girls’ squad. “Def­i­nitely a young team.”

North East ex­pects to have sev­eral run­ners on both the boys’ and girls’ side per­form well at the lo­cal and re­gional level.

Danny Leek re­turns af­ter earn­ing All-County hon­or­able men­tion a year ago. In­di­ans coach Jes­sica Sprout ex­pects the ju­nior to re­turn to the 2A State Meet for a sec­ond-straight year. He will be joined by fel­low ju­nior Daniel Miller, who has stepped up to take over the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

“Danny is look­ing fan­tas­tic. Now he’s got the ex­pe­ri­ence, he’s got the hunger for go­ing back to states and do­ing re­ally well. I think he’s go­ing to be in­cred­i­bly solid through­out the whole sea­son,” Sprout said. “I think it’s go­ing to help bring Daniel along. I think he’s go­ing to see huge im­prove­ment in his time and be huge across the county.”

On the girls’ side, sopho­more Sarah Beitler is primed for a big year af­ter just miss­ing out on qual­i­fy­ing for states as a fresh­man.

“She just needs to stay healthy and be able to put in a lot of work. She’s a hard worker but she just needs to find that com­pet­i­tive spirit a lit­tle more be­cause when she finds the [run­ning] bug, she’s just go­ing to take off,” Sprout said. “See­ing how close she got last year was kind of eye-open­ing. I have big hopes for her.”

Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Ju­nior Elle Meyer re­turns for Bo­hemia Manor af­ter earn­ing All-County Fe­male Run­ner of the Year in 2015.

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