It's been a solid year, so far, for both the West Forsyth boys and girls cross country teams. Coach Nate Newsome said the Titans have done a good job peaking at the right time — near the end of the season.
The girls team won the Central Piedmont 4-A championship meet on Oct. 23 — their third consecutive year claiming the championship. And the boys won the championship for the second straight season.
The next stop of their journey begins Saturday. Both the boys and girls teams will take to the start line at the NCHSAA Class 4-A Midwest Regional meet at Ivey Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville — the site where those conference championships were won and where the state championships will take place next week.
Teams from Glenn, Reynolds, East Forsyth, Davie County and Reagan are set to compete as well.
It's a regional meet both West Forsyth teams won last season. The girls team also won the meet in 2017. But, according to Newsome, both teams have more depth this year and have focused more on more training while competing in fewer meets.
"I think that, after going through the past couple seasons, knowing that we were in the mix and losing somebody along the way we were just more conservative from the get-go," said Newsome, who took over as the boys team this year following the retirement of longtime Coach Jeff Thompson in May. "We wanted to err on the side of doing less than more to avoid overuse, after being stung a few times with that."
The boys team boasts 32 runners with 15 of them being freshman. Running this weekend for West Forsyth will be Drew Okon, Will Atkins, Jeremy Eldredge, Jackson Nichols, Brandt Doty, Wesley Haggstrom and Moey Ghrobrial.
Doty and Haggstrom are among that large group of freshmen, and Okon was a nice addition to the team. The senior transferred from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland before the start of the 2019-20 school year. He placed first at the conference championship, finishing with a time of 16:36.34.
According to Okon, part of his success this season has stemmed from an adjustment in training. His junior year, coaches looked to have him run high mileage. That somewhat changed when he moved to North Carolina.
"Here, the coaches lowered the mileage a little bit and focused more on the quality of the miles, which really made me drop a significant amount of time," Okon said. "... My first two years I wouldn't go past 45 (miles per week). And then, my junior year, we got a new coach who wanted to put me at, like, 70 or 65 during the season.
"And then, when I transferred here, they were like, 'Over the summer, we're not going to go past 60. We're probably going to do around 50 — 55, at the most."
The girls team has been on an upswing, having placed second at the Class 4-A championship last season and third in 2017. Kendall Phillips, Eliza Broce, Bailey Reutinger, Taylar White, Blair Newsome, Ellie Acree and Sophie Cowart are entered in Saturday's race.
According to Phillips, who finished first in the conference championship clocking in at 18:47.51, the season is shaking out better than she expected.
She anticipated finishing just under 19 minutes — maybe just a few seconds more than the time she ran.
It was a boost of confidence for the junior who placed third in the 3,200-meter run at 11:20.75 during the Class 4-A outdoor track and field championships on May 18 at Irwin Belk Track on the campus of N.C. A&T in Greensboro.
"Our whole team has been training pretty hard for this," Phillips said. "I'm really happy with how the season's gone for both me and my team."