Fall sports are approaching and much remains unclear about the boys and girls cross country squads at both East Wake and Knightdale.
“Right now, it's still very, very early,” East Wake head coach Mike Costantino said about his teams. “We haven't even gotten all of the kids yet – still trying to get a few more for the teams.”
Practice for the Warriors has begun, but Costantino isn't making any guarantees until his roster solidifies.
“It's really too early to tell,” he said. “It's largely a mystery right now.”
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Aside from senior Olivia Garcia, described by Costantino as “an impact runner,” the Warriors have nothing set in stone.
East Wake must rebuild its roster on the girls' side. It must do so as well on the boys' side, but not to the same degree, according to the Warriors coach. There are a lot of fresh legs on both sides, and Costantino is charged with assembling the most endurable sets for his two teams.
“It's going to be a rebuilding season,” Costantino said. “It's going to be something slow, as far as bringing them along.”
An unusually late, mid-September start to the season will play to the Warriors' favor. In the meantime, the East Wake runners will be hard at work, preparing themselves for what may be a long season if things don't shake out well.
“Hopefully, that extra time will give us a little bit of leeway, as far as getting experience in, getting everybody acclimated to the program and getting everybody their miles in,” Costantino said.
For Knightdale, things are only slightly more certain. Still, Knights head coach Mark Batey is reserving his full judgment until he sees both his boys and girls in competitive action.
“We should be better than last year,” Batey said. “It's hard to say until we race our first race.”
Knightdale's girls' team is up in the air with the exception of sophomore Aleena Cruz. Last spring, as a freshman track star, Cruz was the 800-meter conference champion. Batey expects her to be not only a team leader, but a statewide standout this fall.
“She's probably the most focused athlete I've ever coached,” Batey said of Cruz. “If she stays healthy, she'll be really hard to beat in cross country – and not just in the conference, but in the state. I really think she's that good.”
The Knights ran a practice 5K this week, and Cruz timed in at just over 19 minutes, a solid early season time that most boys couldn't match, according to Batey.
But it takes more than one runner to make a successful team, and, luckily for the Knights, they appear to have that on the boys' side. Batey believes his top four boys – seniors Ian Mbogo and Nick Lopez, junior Andre Ray and sophomore Charles Pumbu – will be competitive runners in 2014.
“I've got four really strong runners on my boys team,” Batey said. “They should score. We just got to find that fifth guy.”
The leading candidate to become “that fifth guy” is junior Jose Pelayo.
Batey is excited to see both of his squads in action. Saturday's Wake County Kickoff Classic at Broughton – a relatively brief, 3,000-meter race – will provide the Knights coach with a cursory glimpse of his talent in a competitive setting.
“We'll have a little bit better idea after this weekend where we stand as a team,” Batey said. “I think we have potential to do very well – our boys and our girls. I've got some kids who really like to run.”