Coach Calvin Hudgins begins his 15th season at the helm of the Northwestern cross country program, and he is very optimistic about both of his teams’ chances for the year.
The Northwestern boys were picked second in the state in the preseason polls. The Trojans’ girls team begins the season unranked.
The boys, who lost two of their top runners to graduation, finished 10th in the state meet a year ago, and Hudgins expects his team to do much better this time around.
“I feel like we were picked that high because of how we performed a year ago as well as the number of strong runners we have returning,” said Hudgins. “However, we have got to work hard this fall to live up to that billing.”
Christian Acker, a senior, and junior Chad Fennell are expected to be the top runners for the Trojans this season. Both are returning from last year, and both runners won bronze medals in track at last spring’s state meet.
Kole Koterba, Grayson Boatwright and Chad Rollins are also being counted on heavily this season. Boatwright and Rollins are seniors, while Koterba is a junior.
Boatwright and Rollins have been slowed somewhat by injuries. Boatwright is recovering from an ankle injury, while Rollins suffered a stress fracture last spring while running track.
“I look for big things from our boys program this fall,” said Hudgins. “We had a good summer workout, and we have worked hard thus far this fall.”
Northwestern’s girls team is a very young squad. They lost two of their top performers from last year, but the returning runners have experience. Despite not being ranked, Hudgins is not concerned.
“This is a very athletic group of young ladies,” said Hudgins. All of them are two-sport athletes, and one plays three sports. They will do the work needed to improve as the year goes along. I have already seen evidence of that.”
Senior Alicia Sanchez is being counted on to be the top runner this year. The other four top runners are all sophomores: Elliott Beaver, Amber Johnstone, Nicole Rauppius and Brianna Lewis, who participates in three sports.
“This group may be the most athletic group since the 2007 team. They will get better as the season progresses.”
Hudgins thinks the region will be highly competitive for both the boys’ and the girls’ divisions.
“It will be tough,” added Hudgins. “It ought to be a fun season in Region 3-AAAA this fall. Four or five teams in each division will challenge for the title.”
Hudgins has both of his teams on the same training program. That includes long runs of 10 miles and intervals.
“We do the same thing with both of our teams,” said Hudgins. “However, when you coach both teams you cannot get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. If one team is doing better than the other one, then you have to balance things out.”
Hudgins, who has enjoyed tremendous success since becoming the coach at Northwestern, has a large number of runners in the program on both teams.
“The younger runners learn the ropes, and they watch the older runners,” said Hudgins. “The biggest thing they have to learn when they are young is discipline. You have to be disciplined every day if you want to be a good cross country runner.”
Northwestern will host the sixth annual Trojan Invitational at 9 a.m. Saturday. The event will feature South Pointe, Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Clover and Northwestern from the region, as well as Dutch Fork, Irmo, Weddington (N.C.) and Charlotte’s Butler. All nine teams will have both varsity and junior-varsity teams participating.
Hudgins says he pressures himself to keep the strong tradition in cross country at Northwestern going.
“I want both of our teams to be good every year,” said Hudgins. “I also want to make sure that all of our meets are run right. I just want everything to be perfect.”