The Catoosa County News - - WOR­SHIP DI­REC­TORY -

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.”

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