As evidenced by the preseason all-classifications rankings by NCrunners.com, Broughton will have perhaps its stiffest competition for the boys cross country crown.
The four-time defending state champion Capitals are ranked second, behind Winston-Salem’s Mount Tabor, though the site says the two schools are more like 1A and 1B.
Senior Jeremy Brown, last year’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A champ, is the leading returner for Broughton.
NCrunners’ ranked teams
2. Broughton: The Caps lost two of their top five runners from last year’s meet, but the program has others waiting. Robert Simmons (11th in 4A) will help as will sophomore Ryan Brown (25th) and Justin Dorner-Thomas (27th).
4. Green Hope: The Falcons, eighth in 4A, return their entire top five: conference runner-up Henry Pehr, senior Michael Kolor, junior Nick Veilleux, senior Michael Dudash and senior Brian Huitt.
5. East Chapel Hill: Six of East Chapel Hill’s top seven runners in last year’s 4A championship meet are back. Seniors Connor McDonald (16:36) and James Gildard (16:38) finished in the top 20. Seniors Ethan Ready and Clayton Watters, plus junior Chris Hassell, completed the scoring for East, which was sixth in the championships. Clayton Watters and Ruben Sharp are capable of catching the top five Wildcats.
7. Cardinal Gibbons: Last year’s 3A champion, Cardinal Gibbons is moving to 4A while losing four of its top seven. The Connors will lead the way: Connor Lane (seventh in 3A) and Connor Peeples (12th). Connor Stephens, Sam Greclck, Ben Wendt and Devin Adas are likely to score points for Gibbons this season.
8. Apex: Senior Derek Duin, junior Ben Savino, senior Lawson Benfield and sophomore David Cart lead the Cougars, who finished fourth in 4A.
9. Jordan: Jordan failed to qualify a team for the 2014 championship meet, but they’ll make a run at it this season with Quinton Meyer, Matthew Staehle, Samuel Terry-Edmunds, Austin Rooks, Justice Scott and Wesley Ellis all looking to break 17 minutes.
10. Cary Academy: Sophomore Coleman Mitchell has a shot at a state title now that the four 3A runners who finished ahead of him at last year’s NCISAA meet – including older brother Josh – have graduated. Coleman will be joined by classmate Chase Coley (20th) and seniors Shreyas Ashok (23rd) and Nathaniel Jones (28th). The Chargers finished second in the state meet, well behind Charlotte’s Providence Day, 44-79.
11. Chapel Hill: Even without last year’s top runners, the Tigers – third in 3A – look strong with Max Blackburn, Daniel Kleissler, Eric Vanderford and Nat Romaine returning. Each of them clocked 500 miles of work over the summer, and Ben Campbell’s off-season included runs at high-altitude camp.
16. N.C. Science and Math: NCSSM’s senior class is strong enough to keep the Unicorns atop 2A – hard to do given the turnover that comes with only having juniors and seniors at the school. Frank Kenny (17th in 2A), Marcus Christensen (19th), Erik Salgado (20th) and Andrew Spencer (27th) all scored points in last year’s title meet.
17. Millbrook: Only four returning 4A runners finished higher than Tucker Cera (14th in 4A) in last year’s state meet as the Wildcats took 10th. Luke Gostling can break 17 minutes.
20. Panther Creek: The Catamounts lost four of its top seven but return a solid core with junior Kyle Fawzi, senior Alec Carlson and junior Drake Schwehm.
24. Leesville Road: Seniors Eric Artrip, Sean Nicol and Joey and Josh Quesenberry lead the Pride.
Other teams to watch
Carrboro: Sophomore Klaas van Kempen, junior Zakari Crites and senior Jackson Crites should be back. Each finished in the top 75 of last year’s 2A championship, where Carrboro finished fifth.
Cedar Ridge: The Red Wolves, ninth in 3A last year, expect back two top-50 runners from last year’s 3A championship – Colin Bunner (17th) and Ian Elliott.
Chatham Central: Yadkin Valley East Conference champs are an NCrunners “team to watch” in 1A.
Durham School of Arts: Third in NCHSAA 2A, the Bulldogs have a state title hopeful in senior Thomas Little. Little was fourth last year and all three runners ahead of him graduated. Junior Joey Kreiling was 23rd.
Grace Christian Raleigh: Senior Matt Horan was fifth in last year’s NCISAA 2A championship, while sophomore Will Sossaman was 12th.
Research Triangle: The Raptors were second in NCHSAA 1A with Madison Daniel (11th), Jack Puryear (13th) and Michal Swepson (19th) all in the top 25.
Trinity Academy Raleigh: Tigers move up to NCISAA 2A and take 1A champ Christian Pigues, a junior, and senior Matthew Young (6th in 1A) with them.
West Johnston: Greater Neuse River Conference champs lost top four runners but Stephen Balch, Rufus Brown and Ben Meshaw could help Wildcats retain title.
Elliott Warnock contributed.
Individuals to watch
Luke Bennett, Voyager Academy
10th in NCHSAA 1A
Jack Cawley, Middle Creek
Southwest Wake 4th pl.
Gabe Dershem, Cleveland
18th in NCHSAA 3A
Reagan Fedowitz, Union Pines
Cape Fear Valley 2nd pl.
Jacob Gonzalez, South Johnston
9th in NCHSAA 3A
Brett Haensel, Ravenscroft
18th in NCISAA 3A
Miller Meares, North Raleigh Christian
12th in NCISAA 3A
Charles Pumbu, Knightdale
Greater Neuse 5th pl.
Jason Putnum, Southeast Raleigh
Greater Neuse 4th pl.
Alex Roy, Clayton
Greater Neuse runner-up
Austin Sullivan, Princeton
Carolina 1A runner-up
John Watson, Cary Christian
16th in NCISAA 2A
Mark Watson, Cary Christian
11th in NCISAA 2A