Green Hope’s cross country program initially gathered national attention because of the more than 200 athletes on its boys and girls teams.
But in recent years, Green Hope, which has more than 230 runners in the program, has developed not just the best depth of any team in the country, but also incredible strength among its leaders. The Falcons have won three straight NCHSAA 4A girls titles and is favored to add a fourth.
They have been listed among the top 25 girls teams in the country this season, even though they graduated four of their top five runners and six of their top nine.
“It feels a little strange because we had a solid corps for about four years,” said Green Hope coach Mike Miragliuolo. “We’ve got a not of new faces.”
Maura McDonnell, who was fourth in the 4A finals in 2011 and who has run 18:00, leads a group of exceptional runners.
Theresa Enright, who was No. 20, is another sub-19:00 runner and Taylor Buscemi, Savannah Lips and Allie Worsdale can post times around 19 minutes.
“We don’t have the experience that we’ve had, but we’ve got a group that has worked hard,” Miragliuolo said. “We have a good team.”
Green Hope, and many of the other top area teams, will open the season in a kickoff meet at the Wake Med Center in Cary on Aug. 18.
Teams to watch
Cardinal Gibbons: Juniors Mary Grace Doggett (3A runner-up) and Rachel Bartolomeo (No. 3) are sub-19:00 runners and senior Samiiah Wilson (No. 10) and sophomores Katie Magee (No. 16) and Laura Hart (No. 17) are sub-20:00. The Crusaders graduated two runners from the 2011 squad that nipped Chapel Hill by one point in the state finals.
Chapel Hill: The Tigers return Tristin Van Ord (No. 5 in 3A), who may contend for the state 3A individual championship. Emily Williams (No. 21 in 3A), Alexa Young (No. 22), Shannon Mumper and Elise Matera form a close-knit corps.
Carrboro: Grace Morken was the NCHSAA 2A champion in 2011 and leads a squad that returns five runners from the 2A state champions. Maysa Araba (No. 4 in the state finals), Helen Morken (No. 6) and Alexa Phillips (10) were top 10 finishers and Camilla Dohlman was 15th.
Broughton: The Caps return five of their top seven, including junior Mattie Blue and sophomore Megan Sullivan. Both were on Broughton’s 2012 4x800 outdoor relay championship team.
East Chapel Hill: Pegah Kamrani, Maggie Meshnick and Sara Owre lead a Wildcats team that is the PAC-Six favorite.
Cary Academy: The Chargers finished third in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association in 2011. Junior Spencer Rossa was third in the NCISAA finals and has run a 19:13. Emma Astrike-Davis (19:40) was 17th in the NCISAA finals while Hannah Goetz (19:26) was 18th.
Millbrook: Junior Ashley Starnes (personal best of 19:33) and senior Katie Gamble (19:46) are the Wildcats’ nucleus.
Ravenscroft: The Ravens are expected to contend with sub-20 runners Elisabeth Schricker, who was sixth in the NCISAA, and Clair Fuscoe, who was eighth. Lizzy Micyus and Emily Bedsole have broken 21 minutes. Wesley Frazier, one of the top cross country runners in the country, attends Ravenscroft, but does not run with the high school team.
Cary Christian: The Knights return five of the top seven runners from their NCISAA 2A championship team. Caroline Stogner was third in the 2011 NCISAA 2A state finals. Elizabeth Heath was seventh and Laurie Van Deventer was 13th.
Apex: Torre Moser, Christina Goudreau, Amber Blanton and Allison Collins give the Cougars great depth.
Panther Creek: Rebeka Greengrass, who was sixth in the 4A finals, leads a solid Catamount crew that should be outstanding in the Tri-Nine 4A.