Lebanon, Mo. (For OzarksSportsZone.com) -- With a strong core of runners returning and an exciting incoming freshman class on the way, things are looking up this summer for the Lebanon High School cross country program.
Head coach Teresa Moore said 30-40 athletes have been meeting each day at 6:30 a.m. at the high school for early morning runs, and the team will begin two-a-days next week, running both in the morning and late afternoons.
Moore said the girls’ team will return three key runners from last season. Senior Hannah Calhoun returns after battling injury last season, Cheyenne Black (sophomore) and Janessa Richardson (junior) are back, too.
And, Moore will add a trio of talented incoming freshmen in Wynter Nekola, Maddie O’Connor and Kelsey Winfrey.
“It is going to be a young team, but hopefully, we are going to be able to compete,” Moore said. “I know Wynter and Kelsey have ran several 5k’s and the times that they have ran would have qualified them for state the last couple of years.”
Lebanon did not have a senior last season and will likely return its entire varsity team except for Chanler Payne, who recently moved to Columbia.
On the boys’ side, senior Regan Wilson returns, as does Oakley Banks, Hunter Sawyers, Tharron Roy and Devon Jeffries.
Moore said she is also looking forward to several other runners competing once practice officially opens on Aug. 12. The team will continue two-a-days before taking a week off prior to the start of practice.
Wilson returns after advancing to a Missouri Class 4 sectional last season. Wilson is recovering from hernia surgery, but Moore said he has returned to full strength and has been putting in miles during the summer.
"He has really been working hard," Moore said.
Wilson has been training with Tony Bennett, who has put in more than 250 miles this summer, sophomore Hunter Sawyers, and newcomer Therron Roy. Moore said she expects Roy to challenge Wilson for the top spot on the varsity this fall.
Last season, several runners battled injuries, including Calhoun and Richardson.
"It was a rough year, but everybody is looking strong right now," Moore said.
Nekola, who recently competed in the AAU Junior Olympics in the 800-meter run, will likely miss time due to a stress fracture in her hip.
"She'll be out for a while, but other than that everybody is looking good and getting in lots of miles," Moore said.
Cheyenne Black, sophomore, returns, and was among the Yellowjackets leading runners lasts season as a freshman.
"She ended up being a leader for us last year and hopefully she'll be able to continue to improve this year," Moore said.
Moore has high hopes for a talented incoming freshman class and said things are looking up in the junior high ranks as well.
Moore said several runners from the seventh and eighth-grade program have run through the summer and have run alongside the high school kids.
"We've got girls there that have gone to camps and never missed a day," Moore said. "There are a lot of kids that are excited about running. If you get the kids excited, it just grows."
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