to win and race well and his boys’ squad this season has a chance to do just that.
LaFayette’s senior class is led by the trio of Mason Burkett, Matthew Newsom and Noah Armstrong, who were three of the Ramblers’ top runners at last year’s Region 6-AAAA meet. Burkett was 21st (18:44) and Newsom
placed 26th (18:53). Armstrong clocked in with a 20:41.
“Matthew and Noah and four-year runners and I expect a lot of great things out of them this year,” O’Neil said. “Matthew was one of our top two last year and he’s really been running a lot. He’s picked up the pace in the past year. Then you have Mason, who is just a second-year runner, but he was one of our fastest last year.”
The rest of the
seniors include Jarod Sitton, Kris Witherow, Mason King and Dakota Mitchell, along with Jordan Stansberry and Gunner Barenklaw. O’Neil said freshman Josh Perea has already shown plenty of potential and is already hanging with LaFayette’s fastest runners in practice.
On the girls’ side, senior Kaci Rogers is the team’s top returner. Rogers is a past winner of the Walker County Female Runner of the
Year Award. She ran a 24:20 last fall to place in the top 25 at the 6-AAAA championships.
“She’s our fastest (female) runner and she’s been a team leader all four years she’s been with the program,” O’Neil said. “I’m happy to have her back for her senior year and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she is going to do.”
Lauren Pike also ran in last year’s region meet, while other seniors include Rylee
Henderson, Sierra Jackson and Shelby Arey.
O’Neil also singled out sophomore Hannah Dearing, who has impressed him thus far.
“She didn’t run last year, but she’s discovered running now and she’s looking really strong,” he said. “She’s drank the Kool-Aid, so to speak. She’s eating right and running miles on her own.”
The coach said that while he hopes his girls’ team takes another step
toward catching up with the better teams in the region, he has high hopes for his boys’ team.
“I think we have a real chance to go to state,” he said. “As long as I’ve been here and from everything I’ve heard, LaFayette has never sent a (full) team to state. We’ve got the talent, so if everything works out, if we stay injury-free and if everything keeps going well, we have a chance to be one of the top four in our region.”