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Fall Sports Preview: Oak Harbor cross country
"On paper, says coach Seth Hodges, the prospect of a successful season looks good for Oak Harbor High School's cross country teams this year.Five of seven runners who propelled the boy Wildcats to a second-in-district, sixth-in-state season last year are back. And most are seniors who have been running as a group for the last four years.The question is whether the guys will be willing to work harder than they did last year, Hodges says. Last year, their goal was to make the top seven. Now they need to make the top five.They includes a trio of seriously swift kickers led by senior Scott Sebens, back to defend his league and district titles, senior Eric Rooney and sophmore Chris Pulliam.Each brings different and complimentary talents to the team, according to their coach.Scott's a long driver who can start early and just take over a race, Hodges says. And Rooney's uncommon in that he can find a pace where if he goes any faster, he'll die. He's a consistent pace setter who makes the the rest of the team smarter.As for Pulliam, Hodges describes him simply as the most inspirational runner on the team. Chris squeezes every single second off his time and gets more out of his ability than anyone, Hodges says. It's a pleasure to see him run because everyone knows he's doing the best he can.Besides the aforementioned trio, Hodges is expecting fast times from seniors Wes Hartman, Adam Shelly and Brandon Hill, who is making the switch to longer races this year.We've turned him into a long distance runner, Hodges says. He was one of the league's best in the 400 meters last year and he's showed up in shape.The Wildcats runners should also get some help some of from their younger teammates like Matt Bezold - an alternate for state last year, his first year on the team - and sophomores Tim Riney and Greg Ballard.It'll be interesting, Hodges says of the upcoming season. We already know that a couple of teams are looking at us as a team to beat.Lady WildcatsConcerning Oak Harbor's girls' cross country runners, Hodges says the prospects for improvement are good.The girls have nowhere to go but up, he said. They were ninth out of 11 last year.The good news, he added, is that nine of 11 letter winners are back and only one of the top 12 runners is gone to graduation.Returning letter winners include Beth Cullen and Shelly McIntyre, two of the top three runners from last year's team.In addition, the team will be bolstered by the addition of Coupeville's Brianne King, a state competitor in track last year whose presence on the Wildcat roster is described by Hodges as nothing but a plus.Moreover, the lady Wildcats will field at least 20 runners with at least one year's experience running for the tape.We only had a couple of girls with cross country experience last year, Hodges said. And I was real pleased to see that a lot of the girls did a lot of work over the summer. "