PANORA — Anyone expecting a drop-off from the Panorama girls cross country team this season is likely to be disappointed, as are those hoping the boys will remain, in relative terms, an easier hill to climb.
Head coach Greg Thompson has led the Panther girls to a 1A state runner-up spot two years ago and a 2A seventh-place finish last season, with junior Ella Waddle sixth overall in 2017 and fifth in 2018.
Panorama starts the season ranked fifth, with Waddle individually rated third. Paired with a deep returning roster filled with athletes who have helped the Thompson-coached Panther girls to consecutive third-place finishes at the 2A state track meet, Panorama is in prime position to add more polish a proud reputation.
“The girls team returns 5-of-7 state meet runners from last season, and of those five, four were the top four runners for us, so the expectations are high,” Thompson said. “Ella is looking very strong early in the season. Payton Beckman, Lydia Lindstrom and Gwen and Olivia Steffen placed fifth at state track in the 4×800 and look to carry that momentum into the cross country season.”
The final two varsity spots remain open. Senior Chloe Webster has run on the the last three state meet squads while sophomore Leah Fett was a top-seven runner for much of 2018 until recurring shin splints hampered her season.
Junior Jaden Johnson is new to the sport but has shown promise, Thompson said, while senior Molly Simmons and junior Abby Cobb will add solid depth to the roster.
“My job is to do what I can with the training to keep these girls healthy and showing improvement throughout the season,” Thompson said. “They hope to not only qualify to state, but place as a top five team.”
Ten runners are currently vying for varsity spots for the Panther boys, with four of those new to the team.
Junior Logan Christe returns after being on the team as a freshman and then missing his sophomore year, with junior Connor McCarthy, sophomore Landon Goodenberger and senior Brayden Hoffman also new to the team. Thompson said he had confidence “each of these boys will be a big asset to the team as the season progresses.”
Experienced harriers returning include seniors Kevin Cogil, Emry Colby and Declan McCarthy, junior Paul Hanson and sophomores Avery Norman and Alec Mills.