Boys Preseason Countdown, Complete from 1-30

1. Mount Tabor

Three years ago, if you had looked up Mount Tabor's returning top 7 in the NCRunners database before the start of the season, you would have found them at #14. By the end of the 2012 cross country season, they were 8th in the All-Classes team rankings. Going into the fall of 2013, our system had them ranked 15th, and they completely destroyed those expectations, ending up 2nd overall. Last year, the database predicted the Spartans had the 14th-best returning team in the state, and (thinking I had learned my lesson) I bumped them all the way up to 5th in the Countdown - and it still wasn't enough, as they ended up 4th in the final rankings. You get the idea? That's why this summer's team rankings were eye-opening for me: the seven Mount Tabor guys listed below are ranked 4th among returning teams by our database.

BUT THERE'S MORE. When you factor in the addition of Nelson Russ, who transferred from West Forsyth, Mount Tabor ascends to the top of the rankings, albeit by the narrowest of margins (2 points, 115-117). Even having the top returning 5K ranking wouldn't be enough, though, if there weren't other numbers that also justify this position. Tabor's boys have done the best job of year-to-year improvement in the state over the last 3 years, and their track results were stellar (again including Russ, who ran 9:44 and clocked 16:02 for the 5K in early September before injury sidelined him). The 2015 Spartans will be led by Kenny Kneisel, the #2 returner in the state at 5K and the #1 returner in the 3200 from the spring. Let's be clear: I'm not saying that Mount Tabor will win the 4A title, but I am saying they can win the title - if they can get past the 4-time defending champions on race day, which is no small feat.

  • Returning Ranking: 1st
  • 3-Year Improvement Rating: 1st
  • 5-Year Improvement Rating: 2nd
  • Returning 3200 Team Ranking: 2nd
  • Returning 1600 Team Ranking: 7th
1) Kenny Kneisel 15:31.50
2) Ian Foley 15:48.69
3) Cameron Ponder 16:09.81
4) Michael Moerk 16:20.57
5) Ian Nickel 16:29.80
Average Time: 16:04.07 Total Time: 1:20:20.37 1-5 Split: 58.30
6) Matthew Towner 17:08.00
7) Charles Pace 17:26.69

2. Broughton

This is really team 1B in the rankings, because the Caps grade out almost exactly equal to the last team in the list, once all factors are considered. In reality, of course, Broughton is the team to beat this fall, as the 4-time defending champions (they have won 5 of the last 6 titles, to be precise). Returning #1 runner Jeremy Brown is on a completely different level than anyone else in the state - he leads the next-best returner from last fall by an astounding 34 seconds! This isn't the deepest Caps squad of the last 4 years (at least, going into the summer), mostly because they did graduate two of their top 4 runners from the 2014 state meet. On the other hand, they have 4 returning runners that broke 10 minutes including returning #6 Andrew Brooks (and #7 Stuart Holmes ran 4:34 for 1600). Track results like those are very encouraging, and this Broughton team has one other thing in its corner: the Caps runners and coaches know what it takes to get the job done on the first Saturday in November, and they will be right there to compete for a 5th-straight championship in 2015.

  • Returning Ranking: 2nd
  • 3-Year Improvement Rating: 2nd
  • 5-Year Improvement Rating: 1st
  • Returning 3200 Team Ranking: 1st
  • Returning 1600 Team Ranking: 8th
1) Jeremy Brown 14:57.00
2) Robert Simmons 15:57.00
3) Justin Dorner-Thomas 16:07.90
4) Lanier Derbyshire 16:13.10
5) Ryan Brown 16:14.80
Average Time: 15:53.96 Total Time: 1:19:29.80 1-5 Split: 1:17.80
6) Andrew Brooks 16:41.50
7) Stuart Holmes 16:53.00

3. Weddington

You can't anoint any champions in July, but the Warriors are coming into the season with a sizeable advantage over the rest of their 3A competitors. Weddington won the state title in 2013 and then finished second last fall, but they only lost 2 graduates from that squad. In contrast, their entire projected top 7 for 2015 will be seniors! In a program with a strong history of summer improvement, that means you have to go for it all this season, and you know those seniors want the gold trophy back! The talent is there: Matthew Conner and Mitchell Resor are the 4th- and 5th-fastest returning 3200 runners in the state, and Alex Hazan went well under 10 minutes. The future is now for Weddington, and this team will be very hard to beat in 3A if everyone stays healthy, but depth is definitely a concern.

  • Returning Ranking: 4th
  • 3-Year Improvement Rating: 12th
  • 5-Year Improvement Rating: 7th
  • Returning 3200 Team Ranking: 3rd
  • Returning 1600 Team Ranking: 4th
1) Mitchell Resor 15:37.00
2) Matthew Conner 16:04.10
3) Colton Jordan 16:08.00
4) Alex Hazan 16:10.00
5) Jackson Bivens 16:47.90
Average Time: 16:09.40 Total Time: 1:20:47.00 1-5 Split: 1:10.90
6) Colin Love 17:37.00
7) Garrett Marlowe 18:11.00

4. Green Hope

Only 3 schools can claim to have both their boys and their girls in the top 10 this year, and this is the only one with both in the top 5. The Falcons have improved steadily over the last two years, and also progressed noticeably during the 2014-2015 school year. This is the year for it to all come together: they return everyone from the squad that ended up 8th in the 4A state meet, but for 2015 Green Hope has 4 seniors in its projected top 7. That includes Henry Pehr, who had as good a track season as just about any returning runner in the state - he is the #2 returner in the 1600 and seems like a lock to go well under 16 minutes. The Falcons put their entire returning top 7 under 4:40 during the spring, plus Finn McBride as well. All factors point to a big season for this team, but will it be enough to bridge the gap to the top 2 programs in 4A?

  • Returning Ranking: 6th
  • 3-Year Improvement Rating: 17th
  • 5-Year Improvement Rating: 21st
  • Returning 3200 Team Ranking: 4th
  • Returning 1600 Team Ranking: 1st
1) Henry Pehr 16:07.70
2) Brian Huitt 16:34.52
3) Nick Veilleux 16:37.90
4) Michael Kolor 16:47.30
5) Michael Dudash 16:56.60
Average Time: 16:36.80 Total Time: 1:23:04.02 1-5 Split: 48.90
6) Matthew Kehn 17:07.10
7) Cole Hagstrom 17:11.44

5. East Chapel Hill

Are you noticing a run of Midwest 4A teams in the top 10? First Jordan, then Cardinal Gibbons, and now the Wildcats - this is shaping up to be the toughest region in the classification again, although the Mideast is giving it a run for the money. This team is experienced, having finished 6th in the 4A race last November and returning 6 of 7 from that race, and they have back a wicked top 4 with good depth behind them. Ethan Ready didn't run track season, but James Gildard and Connor McDonald both posted big 1600 times. Even more important, returning #5 Tucker Owens and #6 Clayton Watters ran well in the spring; East Chapel Hill needs them to close on the front 4 if the Wildcats are going to make the top 5 this year. With at least 4 seniors in the projected front 7 for the upcoming season, this is a veteran Wildcat squad that's built to be successful this year.

  • Returning Ranking: 3rd
  • 3-Year Improvement Rating: 8th
  • 5-Year Improvement Rating: 4th
  • Returning 3200 Team Ranking: 16th
  • Returning 1600 Team Ranking: 9th
1) Ethan Ready 15:44.50
2) Connor McDonald 15:50.30
3) James Gildard 15:52.00
4) Chris Hassel 16:04.72
5) Tucker Owens 16:43.90
Average Time: 16:03.08 Total Time: 1:20:15.42 1-5 Split: 59.40
6) Clayton Watters 16:55.00
7) Ruben Sharp 17:02.00