No matter the distance or the terrain, the WCHS cross country team is ready to run. The Pioneers made a big impression over the weekend in the John Freeman Invitational in Bell Buckle, placing third as a team in a packed field.
Freshman Isaac Stefanick was an individual standout while leading Warren County, finishing third in a field of over 70 runners. Stefanick made swift work of the gravel and dirt trail, finishing the race in 18 minutes, 56.84 seconds. It was fast enough to earn the freshman a medal at the event as he finished just behind winner Fletcher Barnard from Coffee County and Rhea County’s Stephen Kerley. Barnard clocked a time of 17:24.95, while Kerley finished at 18:06.44.
Coach Anne Myers has seen a number of fleet-footed athletes come through her program in the last few years. She believes Stefanick, who has already impressed during the team’s run through the early part of its schedule, could grow into the next great runner for the Pioneers.
“Isaac is having a great start to his season. I’ve known him for most of his life and I know he is determined,” said Myers when asked about the freshman runner. “We race at Voyles this weekend and it will give him a sense of what kind of competition is here in the midstate. I know he will continue to improve through the season and he has the mindset to rise to the occasion.”
Warren County finished with 76 team points, only shy of Coffee County (32) and Franklin County (67). The Red Raiders had five finishers in the top 12 to win, while the Rebels barely edged the Pioneers by having three runners in the top 10.
Along with Stefanick, other Pioneer runners to add to the team score were junior Julian Martinez (17th, 20:24.21), senior Jorge Vazquez (19th, 20:25.40), sophomore Joseph Toney (20th, 20:28.88) and sophomore Andrew Key (20:36.23).
“The boys team did great. It was a good field of runners and we were able to take third,” said Myers.
On the girls side, Warren County didn’t have enough runners to qualify as a team, but sophomore Valery Esparza was flying in the 5K. The Lady Pioneer earned a medal for his sixth-place finish, turning in a time of 23:19.69.
The Pioneers also had four of the top-five finishers in the JV race, which was 3200 meters (just short of two miles). Freshman Campbell Sutton led the way, winning the race with a time of 13:50.63. Teammates Christian Craft (second place, 14:33.60), Brence Moore (fourth, 15:12.89) and Ethan Stanford (fifth, 15:40.55) weren’t far behind.
Other varsity runners for the Pioneers who were in the 5K field were: senior Cooper Bailey (25th, 20:59.43), junior Sabastian Smith (43rd, 22:10.10), senior Vincent Garrison (47th, 23:04.61), junior Samson Wright (56th, 23:58.67) and sophomore Anthony Johnson (59th, 24:23.69).
Lady Pioneers Sierra Cates (27th, 26:58.40) and Alexis Verdel (30th, 27:19.08) also competed Saturday in Bell Buckle.
Warren County will continue its tour of the Midstate to face top runners this Saturday, Sept. 10 when the groups compete in the Voyles Invitational at The Hermitage.