Warriors excited for boys, girls cross country season

Sherando's Olivia Couillard rounds a turn toward the finish line during last year's Region 4C Cross Country Championships in Kernstown. The Warriors return a lot of their boys and girls runners to this year's team. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STEPHENS CITY – First-year Sherando coach Megan Roberts inherits plenty of depth and talent in both the boys and girls cross country programs.

The girls team lost only one top runner, Paige Conner, to graduation. The Warriors have a strong nucleus returning led by Olivia Couillard, Molly Robinson, Camryn Ubert and Stella Williams.

“I think it’s going to go really well, especially depth-wise, because we only lost like one really good girl,” Williams said. “I’m kind of excited for the season to come back around.”

Last year the Warriors finished sixth in the Region 4C meet and failed to qualify as individuals or as a team for the state meet for the second year in a row.

Roberts said that she feels good about what this year’s girls team can accomplish.

“We’ve got a lot of talent back,” Roberts said. “And we’ve got some really promising freshman coming in this year and a junior that’s trying cross country for the first time. And they’ve got some really great role models as far as not only being on a team but how to train and work hard. So I think with their talent and their good influences I think that the freshman are really going to come along.”

Couillard, Ubert and Williams are all seniors and have been running together for four years on the team. Roberts said that their leadership will be big to the team this season.

“Its great for leadership,” Roberts said. “It’s just I know I am going to go through the whole season knowing I’m going to lose them all after this year. That’s kind of disappointing but they’ve been really great to have. And I think they’re going to kind of leave an influence that helps build the other girls up to slide into their spots next year.”

The Warriors return plenty of talent on the boys side. Sophomore James Harris will look to build his strong freshman season, which ended with a 23rd-place finish in the Class 4 state meet last year.

Harris said he’s hoping to have a big season for the Warriors.

“As a freshman last year I didn’t think I was going to do so well, maybe because I had never run (three miles),” he said. “This year coming back I want to do better things. I want to break 16 (minutes) for a (race), maybe place top 10 in the states. So hopefully it’s a good experience.”

The Warriors did lose Christian Arellano, who would have been a junior. Arellano transferred to Loudoun Valley High School.

Sherando returns the rest of its top seven runners from last year, including junior Ty Waits, sophomore Jonathan Gates and senior Lucas Williams.

Sherando finished fifth in the Region 4C meet last year and the team has good reason to feel optimistic this season.

The Warriors have five sophomores and four freshman on the youthful squad. Roberts said the success that many of last year’s freshman had could set a good example for the incoming freshmen.

“We’ve got a lot of sophomores on the team,” Roberts said. “We’ve got a lot of room for growth. But I think that can also be inspiring for the freshman that are joining us to be like, these guys walked in last year and they’ve already made an impact, maybe I can do that, too.”

Roberts was an assistant coach for the last five years at Sherando and replaced Jamie McCarty as head coach this summer after McCarty’s coaching contract was not renewed by the school. Josh Ilnicky, who previously coached at Randolph-Macon Academy, is now the Sherando assistant coach.

Roberts said she’s enjoying her new position and has received a lot of support as she adjusts to the new position.

“It’s been a lot of work,” she said. “It seems like there’s always something to do. but I m enjoying the challenge. And the support that I’ve had has been awesome. Some of the returning athletes have been very helpful, the parents, the administration, everybody’s really been helping me to settle in to all the new things I’ve been doing.”

Sherando starts its season on Aug. 25 in the Central Invitational.