Boys and girls Pacer cross country teams have lofty goals heading into this season

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Coming off outstanding seasons last year and having the core of both teams returning, Switzerland County cross country coach Mark Boggs has set some lofty goals for his harriers heading into this season.

Both teams return the defending individual champions of the ORVC meet in senior Clay Meyer and junior Amber Meli; and the coach has set both individual and team goals for this campaign.

“Last year our boys team advanced to the regional and were just four points from advancing to the semistate,” Coach Boggs said. “I think the semistate is a reachable team goal this year; and I think some of our individuals have the chance to go quite far.

Clay Meyer, the defending conference champ who was also all sectional and all regional last year; looks to advance out of the semistate this year; and with a solid core of runners behind him, getting the full Pacer squad out of the regional will be what the team aims for.

On the girls side, Coach Boggs says that the team is young, but there is veteran leadership at the top with Amber Meli and also senior Beth Abbott; and after Amber Meli ran in the regional as an individual qualifier last year; hopes are that the rest of the team will join her this time around.

Here’s a team by team look at this year’s cross country teams:

The boys team is the returning conference champions, and has six runners back for the run at repeating. Four freshmen join the mix to add depth to the squad, and hopes are high for an outstanding season.

Along with Clay Meyer; this year’s Pacer team will be held by juniors Corey McFarland, Tray Meyer, Josh Hon, Tanner Ross, and Bradlee Burk; and freshman Anthony Dennis is also being counted on to make an immediate impression.

Other freshmen on the team include Quinn Meyer, Damon Robbins, and Brady Voris – who is recuperating from an injury to his knee.

The freshmen are also adjusting to a further distance than in middle school, where they ran 1.8-miles. In high school, the distance jumps up to 3.1-miles.

“Surprisingly, the freshmen have adjusted well at this point to the longer distance,” Coach Boggs said. “I think that comes from the commitment that those runners made to our summer program.”

Coach Boggs sees South Ripley and Rising Sun as two schools in the conference that should field strong teams, but quickly points out that Jac-Cen-Del will also be improved, and no school can be counted out heading into the conference meet.

“I think the who conference is traditionally strong, but I think we’ve got a shot,” the coach said.

This year’s regional will be run at Bedford North Lawrence, moving from Greensburg last year; and should keep the Pacers out of a regional that last year featured half of the state’s top 10 teams. Regardless, the Pacers are off and running toward an outstanding season.

“Our expectations are high,” Coach Boggs said. “We feel good about where we are at this point in the season, and we hope to stay healthy and continue improving. Our work will be cut out for us, but the semistate is a goal we’re shooting for.”

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The girls team has four runners returning from last year’s squad; led by conference champion and regional qualifier Amber Meli. Also being counted on for leadership on and off the course is senior Beth Abbott.

“Amber will be one of our top runner again this year,” Coach Boggs said. “She was all sectional and finished 40th in the regional at Greensburg. Our goal for her this year is to get out of the regional and on to the semistate. Beth has had a good start to the season, and is probably running the best she has in her career right now. She’s a hard worker and a great leader by example.”

Also back is sophomore Andrea Brogan, who was all conference last year to cap an outstanding freshman season. The Lady Pacer coach looks for her to be solidly in the top five all season and continue her improvement on last year’s times.

The final returnee is junior Catie Johnson.

“Catie’s getting more experience at this distance now, and that’s beginning to show in her times,” the coach said. “She continues to improve each day.”

Leading the newcomers is a pair of freshmen who look to make an immediate impact on the team.

Freshmen Bre Hinman and Allie Mathews come to the high school program after outstanding middle school careers, and will immediately make their presence known as solid members of the Lady Pacer top five.

“Bre and Allie have really made that jump from 1.8 miles to 3.1 miles and will help make up the solid top five for us,” Mark Boggs said. “It’s a credit to them. They’ve worked hard.”

Another freshman is Alexis Carfield, who also had an outstanding middle school career and is running well heading into her first high school season. She is being counted on to be a part of the top seven.

Also new to the team is sophomore Hailee Thomas, who is coming off of an outstanding track season last spring; and her coach looks for her to carry that success over to the cross country season.

Freshmen Tara Hoffman and Kaitlyn Fairhurst are running competitively for the first time, and Coach Boggs thinks that it will take them some time to get adjusted to running the 3.1-mile distance, but is excited about their potential.

“We’re very young, but I do feel that by the end of the season we should be able to compete in the conference,” the coach said. “Our goal as a team is to move through the sectional and the regional and get to the semistate – and I think that’s a reachable goal for this team.”

In the conference, Coach Boggs sees South Ripley as the team to beat; but also feels that his charges and Rising Sun will be right there battling throughout the season. He also sees Jac-Cen-Del in the mix; and Southwestern should also be competitive.

“We’ll probably all be chasing South Ripley,” Coach Boggs said.