The No. 1 team on our cross country pre-season countdown are the Cavaliers of Cuthbertson High School!
The Cavaliers are returning an insane amount of star power to defend their NCHSAA 4A cross country state title. In fact, they return their top six runners from the championship team.
This squad runs deep. They had their entire top five make the pre-season individual countdown: 3-4-5-9-10.
Preisano, a Wake Forest commit, is hunting her first individual cross country state title. As a junior she was 4th and as a sophomore she was runner-up at the state meet. She holds a cross county personal best of 17:42.34, which was NC No. 5 on the season and No. 2 amongst returners. She is a multi-time state champion on the track, but now it is time for her to carry that over to the course this fall.
Nasta is the other senior in their top five. She quietly had a dominant season on the track. She ran 10:49 for 3,200m at All American Track Classic and went on to place 6th at the state meet. She also ran 4:59.62 for the 1-mile. Indoors, she was 3rd in the 3,200m, as well. Last fall she finished 11th at the state meet and ran a personal best of 18:02 earlier in the year. As a sophomore in 2020, Nasta was 4th at the cross country state meet.
Along with the seniors, there is a trio of now-juniors who are ready to take the country by storm.
Alyssa's younger sister Justine Preisano came in as the No. 9 runner on the pre-season countdown. Last fall, she was 17th at the state meet where she ran a personal best of 18:36.70. She really came into her own on the track, she placed 7th in the 1,600m and 3,200m at the NCHSAA 4A Indoor State Meet before going on to finish 2nd in the 800m and 4th in the 1,600m outdoors. She ran one 3,200m this outdoor season, a 10:49.88 at adidas Raleigh Relays.
Also coming back is NCHSAA 4A 800m champion Charlotte Bell. She emerged as one of the top 800m runners in her class nationally last season, finishing US No. 7 for her grade. She also ran 4:52.61 for the 1-mile which was class US No. 13. She ran 10:35.76 in her only 3,200m indoors or outdoors.
The X-factor to this team's success on the national stage is going to come from junior Stella Kermes. The junior emerged, like Bell and J. Preisano, to the national spotlight this spring as a sophomore and looks to only build on it. She was 9th at the cross country state meet last fall, but went on to set a personal best at Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championship (17:49.25). She won the indoor 1,000m state title and placed 5th in the indoor 1,600m. Outdoors, she ran a class US No. 15 1-mile time of 4:54.68. She placed 3rd in the 1,600m and 5th in the 3,200m at the outdoor state meet.
As a team, they are the returning NC No. 1 and US No. 6 school in cross country! They have emerged as a national powerhouse and their 3,200m team scores back it up. They were the US No. 1 team in the 3,200m this spring amongst returners (No. 4 including class of 2022), and they were the only school in the country to have five non-seniors all break 11:00. On top of that Lily Fierick was their No. 6 and she ran 11:08.12.
This Cuthbertson team has it all, but they still have to put in the work in order to repeat as state champion and go on to cross country nationals. There are plenty of hungry teams ready to line-up next to the Cavaliers this season, but the doubters and the competition only make them stronger. Don't poke the bear.
To put some context on how good these Cavaliers can be, last fall Cuthbertson scored 50 points to win the state title. The lowest score in NCHSAA 4A girls cross country state history is 28 points, scored in 1984 by Chapel Hill. The girls all-classification state meet points record is 21, set in 2007 by then-NCHSAA 2A Cardinal Gibbons. The overall record is 20 points, scored by the boys of NCHSAA 1A's Surry Central back in 2003.
Cuthbertson has only one individual cross country champion in their history: Madeline Hill in 2018 and 2020-21. They are on quite the winning streak as a team, however, having won the NCHSAA 3A team title in 2018, 2019, and 2020, before moving up to NCHSAA 4A and defending their crown in 2021. A win this year would make them the 4th program to 5-peat on the girls' side in state history. (T.C. Roberson 2004-2008, Green Hope 2009-2014, and Cardinal Gibbons 2010-2018).