By Chris Chaney
Boys’ cross country in Clermont County is off and running in 2013 with many of the area’s teams already competing in meaningful meets prior to the academic year starting.
The top runners around the area don’t have an offseason and now are able to show their improved times and techniques over a variety of different courses as they begin classes at their respective schools.
In the Southern Buckeye Conference, the usual suspects populate the conversation about who will be the teams to beat in 2013 with Batavia, Bethel and New Richmond being brought up as strong contenders for league championships in their respective divisions.
On the American side of the SBC, defending champions Bethel-Tate returns a strong legion of runners headed up by two of last year’s All-SBC performers Adam Shinkle and Jared Iding.
Despite losing a trio of all-league performers to graduation, head coach Pam Taylor has a team in place that many are pegging as one of the top in the area.
One such coach is Rylan Shebesta, the cross country head man at New Richmond High School. Shebesta also will have one of the top teams in the American Division coming off of a third-place finish at the league meet a year ago.
“The one thing with the boys’ side this year that could make us a lot better is that we are deeper,” Shebesta said of his squad. “We lost our best runner, Luke Gilday, and lost to the first-place team in the league by two points, really because we weren’t deep enough.
“We had two of the best runners in the conference, but the teams that beat us were deeper. I think by sheer numbers (we have a better chance).”
Junior Bobby Bingham, the other member of the Lions’ one-two punch from a year ago, will lead the Lions. Bingham was a First Team selection last season.
Bingham will be aided by Brian Lewis, Stone Oliver, Caleb Hayward and Silas O’Dell, returners all. Shebesta also has a pair of soccer-cross country crossovers in Zach Fields and Charlie Spicker who, he believes, will aid the cross country team a lot.
Other than the runners mentioned, Shebesta said he has a good crop of young talent that until he sees how they perform in a race, he won’t know who will be a big contributor.
Aside from New Richmond and Bethel on the American side, Goshen and Amelia will try to get some runners up into the top of league meets, despite battling small numbers. The lone returning All-Star from either school is senior Daniel Hulsmeyer of Goshen who was named to the First Team in 2012.
On the National side of the SBC, Batavia will try to dethrone Georgetown as the defending champions with Williamsburg not too far behind.
The Bulldogs bring back two of the most recognizable names in the conference in twins Griffin and Hunter Stith, who enter their senior season with high postseason aspirations.
“We have had several upperclassmen boys who have been very solid over the past few years,” head coach Dona Braswell said. “And we will add quite a bit again this year as the younger boys are doing well also. We advanced out of districts and into regionals last year and I see us doing even better (this year).”
The Stiths will be co-captains for the second consecutive year and look to finish among the top runners in the league and the district.
Under the leadership of the Stiths, who have gotten the team together in the offseason for group runs, will be returning letter winners and All-SBC selections Ryan Cooper and Austin Sammons.
Braswell also expects some of her younger talent to shine through this year and challenge for one of the top spots in the SBC.
While Williamsburg finished in fourth place in the SBC-National a year ago, they were in the top half of the scoring in the league overall.
Senior Roger Thornberry will lead the way for the Wildcats with Tyler Crawford acting as his second in command.
While many of the teams around the area have participated in some sort of early-season race, the season gets underway in earnest over the next seven days with Felicity, Wilmington and Western Brown all hosting big races.