With several strong returners on both its boys and girls teams, the upcoming Hatboro-Horsham cross country seasons - which open Friday at the John Sharp Invitational in Warrington - look to be promising ones.
First-year head coach Russ Coleman, who is no stranger to Hatters athletics, will lead the boys team. Not only is he a three-time state champion for the Hatters, but Coleman also spent the last 10 years as the boys distance coach for the winter and spring track teams.
A three-time All-American at James Madison University, Coleman is excited to work with the reigning Continental Conference champion. The Hatters followed up their strong regular season with a third-place finish at the district meet and an eighth-place finish at the state championships.
“I think they established themselves as the top team in the league very early on in the season,” said Coleman, who was an enthusiastic follower of the team last season. “The league title was not easy, but it was expected.”
While the losses of 2010 seniors Kodi Burns, Jim Cahill and David Kriass will make repeating a tougher challenge, there are still several key pieces of the championship team who are looking to add another title.
Captains Sam Hibbs and Conner Quinn are both returning after earning medals at the state championships last year, while Pat Clark also brings the experience of having competed at states. Hibbs was a state medalist last year in spring track (3200), while both Hibbs and Clark competed at the spring national championships in the 4x800.
With so much winning experience from last year’s team, there shouldn’t be any lack of focus or determination this fall.
“I think it sets the bar high for this year's team,” Coleman said, “and I think it's positive pressure to motivate us for the season. [Hibbs, Quinn and Clark] are healthy right now and looking very fit.”
Coleman also sees a handful of young runners - including Justin Ehring, Andrew Doberstein, Jon Gulick, Ryan Preston and Ray Zhao -who could either jump into the varsity lineup or provide important depth as the team looks to repeat this fall.
The girls are in their second season under head coach Ryan Lichtner, a former all-conference runner for Hatboro-Horsham who continued his career at Davis and Elkins College.
Lichtner had a young team in his first season, and he hopes a building year will result in greater success this season.
Though there were three senior graduates, Lichtner does have a few important runners that he believes can lead the team to greater heights this fall. The winning foundation would begin with his two senior captains, Veronica Gould and Lauren Doberstein.
“Gould looks sharp, very comfortable and relaxed,” Lichtner said. “She should be ready to race with the best. Doberstein is going to be a solid runner and be right in the mix of the action.”
Junior Megan Schneider could also be one of the top runners for the Lady Hatters, while several others who may become key contributors include, but are not limited to, Sarah Alexander, Marykate Selgrath and Rachel Snyder.
“Schneider has great capability of making it really far and competing with the top runners,” Lichtner said.
Like their male counterparts, the Hatboro-Horsham girls will compete only once at their home course. Both teams will host Central Bucks South Oct. 5 at 3:30 p.m.
Other key dates for the upcoming season include: Oct. 21, for the Continental Conference Championships at Lehigh; Oct. 29, for the District 1 Championships at Lehigh; and Nov. 5, for the PIAA State Championships at Hershey.