We've made it! Cross country season is on our finger tips, if not already upon us for some programs. Providence Invitational this weekend is the unofficial first large invitational in the state that gets the action going for the season.
So, without further ado, the No. 1 boys' team on our pre-season countdown are the Spartans of Mount Tabor.
The Spartans are reloading after last year's NCHSAA 4A Cross Country state title. They lose their top three from the day, including three all-state runners. They do, however, return an experienced and deep group of runners that will do whatever it takes to return to the promise-land.
Returning up front is senior Andrew Burrell. He was 21st in the cross country state meet, but he really picked it up on the track. He placed 3rd in the 800m at the NCHSAA 4A State Championship and he has a best time in the event of 1:54.88.
He also ran 4:17.65 for the 1-mile run at Mount Tabor Mile earlier in the spring. He only ran one 3,200m during both indoor and outdoor season, a 9:38.40 run at the New Balance Dash for Doobie.
Two more returners from the state title team join Burrell at the front.
Armentrout ran 9:42.85 for 3,200m this spring and Kern 9:46.25. Both runners ran their cross country personal bests at adidas XC Challenge last fall. Armentrout ran 16:23.00 and Kern 16:25.30.
The Spartans have another senior in Conner Inman who did not race the state meet last fall. He was their 7th runner at the NCHSAA 4A Midwest Regional, and now holds the No. 2 returning time on the team: 16:19.80.
Inman also ran 9:43.79 for 3,200m at New Balance Dash for Doobie and 4:18.98 for the 1-mile at Mount Tabor Mile.
Connor Riley and Jonah Mussomeli are going to be strong assets on the back end of this varsity squad. Riley hasn't competed since the indoor season, but he ran 4:38.72 for the 1,600m and during cross country he ran a best of 16:25.74. Mussomeli ran 10:23 for 3,200m and 4:43.61 for the 1-mile run.
As a team they are the returning NC No. 2 if you look at returning times, but I think their experience and late season prowess will slingshot them to the top.
This is a much different team than in 2021. They had the front-pack power with Will Soule, but now the Spartans are going to rely on their pack and 1-5 split to lead them back to the top of the state. They certainly have the talent to do it, but as we've seen over the last few years, anything can happen at the state meet.