After two years of low numbers on the roster, a group of seven new runners will add promise to the Bradford girls’ cross country team for the 2020 season.
“The last two years were difficult, number-wise. We struggled to field a full team at districts two years ago and had to recruit a few soccer and volleyball players last year,” said coach Mark Kelley. “However, with the seven new runners we have this year, it will definitely be a very encouraging year. This group brings in a lot of talent and competitiveness with them. I think they are going to surprise a number of teams in our District.”
Leading the way is three-year letter winner and senior captain Hannah Lary, who has qualified for the state meet in each of her seasons at Bradford High.
“She is very competitive and one of the hardest working girls I have coached. She will give everything she has in a race, if it means beating someone,” Kelley said. “She has also been a great leader to this young team this year. She is looking to become one of only a few runners to be in the top 10 on the class list.”
There are two sophomores on the team, letter-winner Abby Schleicher and Elisa Hayden.
“Abby got a lot of experience last year as a freshman,” Kelley noted. “She was new to the sport but picked it up pretty quickly. She had a good summer of conditioning this year and she is running great in practice.”
Hayden, meanwhile, was one of the top runners in junior high two years ago and is back on the team this year.
“Elisa has really picked up where she left off two years ago. She is one of our top five runners consistently in practice. She has a lot of talent and I’m excited to see her run this year,” Kelley said.
The biggest group is made up of six freshmen that come up from the junior high program.
“This group has really accomplished a lot in the last two years. They have won six invitationals; they have been runner-up twice in the junior high championships and won the prestigious McQuaid Invitational last year,” Kelley noted.
The group is led by Korie Dixon.
“Korie took on the front runner role last year in eighth grade and has maintained that this year. She has been the top runner in workouts and I think she is going to have an outstanding year. She is not intimidated by the new distance or the competition. She is one of the most talented freshman I have coached,” Kelley said.
Not too far behind Dixon is Caitlyn Taylor, who Kelley lists at the No. 3 runner.
“She is not too far behind Korie and Hannah and I wouldn’t be surprised by the end of the year that she is right up with those two,” Kelley said. “She runs hard in practice; her workouts have been very good this year and it is very nice having a close pack in our top three runners.”
The next freshman is Aubrey Cruz, who is currently pacing with Bradford’s top five.
“Aubrey had a great year last year in junior high and will be looking to continue that at the high school level. She is a very talented runner and will push all of the girls in front of her,” Kelley said.
Leila Bines is the fourth member of the freshman class, and is in her third year of running cross country and is contending to be among Bradford’s top seven.
“She had a number of really good performances last year and is fighting hard to be in the top 7 runners,” Kelley noted.
Kendall Gracey-Dalton, a second-year runner, is the fifth member of the freshman class.
“Kendall has worked very hard over the summer and is running very well in practices. She also has the potential of being in the top 7,” Kelley said.
Kali O’Neil is the sixth and final member of the freshman class.
“Kali really came on at the end of last year in 8th grade. She has continually improved in the past few weeks with practice and will continue to get better as the season progresses,” Kelley said.
The talent is plentiful, but the roster is filled with youth, to be sure.
“This team has the potential to be very good,” Kelley said. “However, we are very young with 1 senior, 2 sophomores and 6 freshmen. We are going to be very good with Korie, Hannah and Caitlyn at the front. The 4-7 runners really make the team. It will be nice to have some competition for those spots.”
Kelley noted that there will be a “learning curve” for the newcomers, and that only two of Bradford’s nine rostered team members have run a high school race before. As such, four or five of the freshmen will be among hte team’s top seven out of the gates.
“I do believe our schedule is going to help with that. We will not be running in any large invitationals this year as we normally do,” Kelley noted. “Running in the IU9 bubble is going to help reduce some of the anxiety those large meets bring.”
The team has nine regular season meets scheduled, beginning with a home meet today at 4:30 p.m.
Kelley concluded, “We have 9 meets throughout the season and hopefully a postseason. All of these girls lost a spring track season and are looking forward to running in a race. I’m happy that our school district was able to allow our athletes compete. If we can stay healthy throughout the season, these girls are going to be very fun to watch.”