The boys’ cross country team welcomes back eight of its top nine runners.
Never in head coach Steve George’s six years at Whitman-Hanson Regional High has he returned as much talent as he does this fall.
George welcomes back eight of his top nine runners and 13 of his top 20 total.
“I’m excited and optimistic about our boys’ team,” George said. “We are not only returning many of last year’s top runners, but have additional boys who will be making contributions as well.”
George, whose club finished 3-5 last autumn, has gone as far as to call this a “pivotal” season for the program.
“I’ve changed up our summer training program for the first time in years, pushed the kids into the weight room all summer, and planned an aggressive in-season training regimen,” George said. “The kids are onboard with the changes and are pretty excited about the season as well.”
Junior Theo Kamperides leads the way for the upstart Panthers. With an average time of 17:29, Kamperides was the team’s top finisher last season and its lone league all-star. George said he believes Kamperides will become one of the program’s top-20 5k runners of all time before the season’s over.
“He’ll have to run sub-16:53,” George explained. “But Theo is only entering his junior year and will become stronger and faster as he matures. Theo has so many things on his side. The prototypical build, the work ethic, his ability to follow our plan with precision, but most importantly, he just loves to run.”
Senior captain Brandon Hager was the Panthers’ No. 2 runner last fall with an average time of 17:48, and should be up there again this season.
“Brandon is a grinder,” said George. “When he started with us he needed to work on his running mechanics and even learn how to do a proper push up. But he has worked on perfecting both and is a great example of how a kid can improve once he is committed to doing so.”
Fellow senior captains Nick Hanley (team’s No. 4 runner last season) and Adam Solari (team’s No. 9 runner last season) also should be top runners.
Juniors Matt Butler, Liam Cafferty and Chris MacDonald all ran top-seven times last fall and will contribute heavily, as should sophomore Nathan Tassey, who hit the ground running in track last year.
George said he is also excited about a group of six underclassmen, which includes sophomores Jack Carron, Gordon Johnson, Aiden O’Brien and Domenic Uva, along with juniors Andrew Bergin and Aidan McCarthy.
“I have to believe somebody will become a surprise before long,” George said. “Nearly all participate in other sports during the year and aren’t run training full time like those kids currently at the top. With a month or so of training at the level we’ve asked them to train, who knows what will come of it.”
As for now, the only surprise so far for George was that sophomore Evan Jewitt, the team’s No. 3 runner last fall, opted not to return.
W-H begins its campaign at home on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 4 p.m. against league foe Plymouth South.
“In the Patriot League, there are quite a few good teams and an abundance of talent,” George said. “Our kids are very aware that in order to make this a successful season, we have to be prepared come November, but still we’d like to get off to a good start. We’re doing all we can to accomplish that.”