A pair of state qualifiers will pace the attack for the Oak Harbor High School girls and boys cross country teams this fall.
Returning for the girls is senior Alex Smith, who has been the Wildcats’ top runner since entering high school. Smith is a two-time, all-Wesco selection and has twice qualified for the state meet.
Also returning for the girls are seniors Stephanie Mayer and Brenna Rothman.
The top newcomers, according to coach Eric Peterson, are sophomores Natalie French and Courtney VanGiesen and freshman Evelyn Osburn.
“The strength for the girls will be their depth,” Peterson said. “We have two solid athletes at the front for the girls, Natalie and Alex, and they’ll be followed up by four girls who are pushing each other in practice and working hard for those next three spots.”
Junior Dallas Riddle-Stevens, who competed in the state meet last fall, is back for the boys.
Also returning are senior Josh Stone; juniors John Pope, Cole Fishburn, and Brandon Parham; and sophomore Hunter Hogarth.
Leading newcomers are freshmen Cooper Billiter, Ralph Ramier, Javier Roldan and Harrison Keating.
The strength of the boys team is the influx of young talent.
“This will be a competitive team for a few years with only one senior in our top seven at this point,” Peterson said.
The goal for the season is for both teams to place in the top half of the Western Conference, he added.
His hope is that the athletes “have fun, build great relationships and continue to run and train as a team.”
The coaching staff is “looking forward to the energy and excitement of such a young team,” Peterson said. “They are eager to compete and have shown in the first couple weeks of practice they are not afraid to work hard to get better.”
The Wildcats head to Bellingham for the Sehome Invitational at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at Civic Stadium.
Oak Harbor’s lone home meet is 3:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at Fort Nugent Park.