R.J. Reynolds will have no way of replacing John Tatter up front after he won Foot Locker South and went on to place 4th at Foot Locker Nationals a year ago. It's certainly a heavy hit, but the Demons will still have a strong contingent up front this fall. RJR will return 4 of their top 7 from a year ago and will be led by rising junior Jack Holbrook up front as well as senior John Paynter.
As a sophomore Holbrook kicked off the year with a PR of 16:23 at the Jungle Run. He ran just over that in the 16s many times over the season notably winning the Frosh/Soph Championship and taking 4th in the 4A Midwest Region. Holbrook ended the 2018 track season with new PRs of 4:32 and 9:51 for the 1600m and 3200m. Though Jack has faster times than older brother Todd Holbrook through his sophomore year, Todd's breakthrough came during his junior XC season. I expect Holbrook to be under 16 minutes this fall.
John Paynter will likely contend with Holbrook to be the teams top runner this fall. He's coming off a junior track season where he ran 9:43 to finish 8th at the NCHSAA 4A State Championships in the 3200m. In XC Paynter holds a PR of 16:40 and he placed 51st at the 4A State Championships last fall. Based off his recent success on the track this senior looks ready to have a breakthrough this XC season.
Jeff Echols was in RJR's top 7 last year running 17:14 as a freshman ending the season as the teams #6 runner. Echols ended his freshman year on the track with PRs of 2:08.50 and 4:51.13. Now a sophomore Echols will need to step up as he'll likely be in the top 5 throughout the season. Rising junior Harrison Hickman will return to the team after missing a lot of the 2017 XC season. He kicked the year off with a 17:31 PR, but seemed to miss most of the year. On the track, he was back running PRs of 4:51 and 10:58. If he can stay healthy he could have a big PR in store and should be fighting for a top 5 spot this fall.
Senior Ian Creech looks to be someone who the Demons will be happy to add back this fall. As a sophomore, he ran 17:31, but missed all of the regular season as a junior just running at the conference and regional meet well of his PR. On the track Creech showed he was able to get back into good shape running 4:46 and 10:51. He'll be looking to make up for lost time this season. Henry Phillips, James Slawter, and Rand Parrish are others that could make an impact on the top 5 this season with a slight breakout over the course of summer training.
RJR enters the season as the top team in the 4A Midwest this fall. They'll have to fight off two strong young programs in Pinecrest and Reagan if they want to retain their regional team title this fall.