Grant Franceschina, Meyer set to lead Eagles cross country
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
Junior Elle Meyer returns for Bohemia Manor after earning All-County Female Runner of the Year in 2015.