The 2020 fall cross country season is rapidly drawing to a close, indicated by the recent “Thrill of the Hill” event at Greenwood’s Bell Park, the biggest meet on the schedule for the GHS girls and boys during these strange Covid-19 times. More than 20 schools and over 700 runners participated in the massive 11th annual event on October 8th featuring both junior and senior high athletes.
On a warm day, both of Greenwood’s cross country squads were able to sweep the team titles in their respective competitions. The Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs each won the 4A-5A division. Greenwood took the boys’ title with 48 points, while the Lady Bulldogs won with 29 points. Greenwood also performed well among the top individual finishers in the two high school divisions.
According to Greenwood head coach Jim Andrews, the hundreds of runners were divided into two primary groups. “We separated the meet into two divisions. For junior high [we had] 5-6A and 1-4A together, and for senior high we created three classifications, 6A, 5-4A, and 1-3A. We had a great turnout, but the course was challenging,” said the coach.
GHS sophomore Noah Embrey won the 4A-5A boys’ championship by running a time of 17:33.10, and he also had the best overall time among any of the boys’ finishers. Meanwhile, senior Macie Cash prevailed in the girls’ 4A-5A race, earning first place with a time of 20:58.80, and had the third-best time overall.
“Both teams ran well,” said Andrews, “and I feel the meet went smoothly. As coaches, we love challenging courses and don’t always share the same feeling about ’Thrill of the Hill,” as the runners. It is a challenging course, both mentally and physically, and the heat added an even higher level of difficulty.”
Greenwood’s boys had three runners finish in the top six in the 4A-5A grouping. Along with Embrey’s first-place showing, sophomore Gavin Ciesla came in third (18:57.10), while freshman newcomer Christian Wheeler finished sixth (19:02.20).
The Lady Bulldogs had three runners place in the top five in the 4A-5A division. Along with Cash, tenth-grader Madelyn Wilkinson was fourth (22:14.70) and fellow sophomore Ashley Koeth came in fifth (22:23.60).
“Both of our junior high teams [also] did well,” added the coach. “Carole Werner came in third and is having an exceptional year. She has consistently led our junior girls at all meets. Elizabeth Moy also finished 11th and Piper Ames was 15th,” he continued. All three girls are eighth graders.
“Our girls have had a solid foundation to keep getting better each year, and I believe the girls we have running this year will continue the tradition of winning and competing with the best,” said Andrews, whose senior high girls are the defending Class 5A state champions, a testament to the strong tradition referenced by the coach.
“Our junior boys had a few [runners] missing due to quarantine, but they all ran hard and gave great effort,” said Andrews. “Westin Rushing and Raeden Massa led the group, and both have come on strong toward the end of the season. Both teams are gearing up for one more meet at Van Buren before the River Valley Conference and 5A West conference meets,” he explained. Rushing and Massa are both eighth graders.
“Our senior high teams are coming together nicely as we’re approaching the final stretch before conference and state,” said the coach. “We’ve had some of our ninth graders move up and get a little more 5K experience in the process. On the boys’ side Noah Embrey is still running as strong as ever, and I feel he has a chance to be in the running as the top guy going into conference and state meets.
“[Most] of our top [varsity] runners are sophomores or freshmen, and that means young talent,” observed the coach. “We have a new freshman, Christian Wheeler, who has really worked hard and shown that the 5K is a race he is very comfortable running. He is running better each meet, and I feel more confident as well. I feel they will all have a good run as we prepare for the last part of our season. Gavin Ciesla runs better each week and [sophomore] Hudson Trice [had] a great summer of work [with] great results. He and [sophomore] David Ambriz round out our top five, and I feel are set to have a great couple of final races.
“The girls have been consistent all year,” Andrews continued. “I’m confident they are ready to make another run for a [state] title. Macie Cash leads the group with one great race after another. She ran a great personal best at Bell Park, and I feel she will be one of [those] to watch at state.
“Madelyn Wilkerson and Ashley Koeth have run strong the last few weeks, and with the addition of [freshman] Paige Andrews and [sophomore] Kaitlynne Elmore, we are poised to be a challenge. We’ve had to fight quarantines, but fingers crossed, we can stay safe. The girls’ team is ready to show they can make a run at another state championship.”