The Lebanon County meet will also have a new home, making this season one of changes for county cross country teams

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For the second consecutive year, a team from the Lancaster-Lebanon League has been a recipient of the Brooks Booster Club grant which, according to the website, “provides running footwear, apparel, and accessories” for up to 30 members on the 25 selected teams. This year, one of the 25 teams selected was from Lebanon County, and the Lebanon Cedars couldn’t be more excited.

Lebanon head coach Thomas Pearson applied in May and recently found out in an email that his team was one of the recipients. “I got the email last week,” he said, “I was pumped. Columbia won it last year, so it’s awesome to have it in our league again.”

Brooks created the philanthropic program in January of 2015 as a means of supporting 25 underfunded track or cross country programs in the US and Canada to promote running and inspire young runners.

In addition to uniforms, shoes, and warm-ups, Lebanon will also receive funds to help pay for invitational fees and transportation costs.

Pearson said, “It’s going to be a huge help just with making sure kids are in the proper equipment.”

He also is hopeful that the grant will attract a few more students to cross country.

“We’re looking to build this program back up. To do that we need numbers, and numbers breeds competition, and competition breeds success” he said.

Aside from the new gear at Lebanon, another change to cross country in the county this year is the movement of the county meet to Annville. For the past several years, the meet has been held at South Hills Park. This year, the meet will be at Annville-Cleona High School.

A-C Ben Rhoads said, “It will make things easier for our boosters. They won’t have to drag everything out to South Hills.”

In addition to the change in location, Rhoads explained that a 3 p.m. start was necessary for the varsity meet due to field hockey in the morning.

Cedar Crest head coach Brandon Risser was not overly worried about the move. He said, “Who knows what the weather will be like on Sept. 17, but 3 p.m. is definitely not an ideal time for a competitive 5k XC race.”

Risser also noted that since districts will once again be held at Big Spring, he will once again send some of his runners to the Big Spring Invitational that day. “With Big Spring being an hour and fifteen minutes away, that is too much time to spend riding a bus on consecutive days at the end of October.”

Palmyra won both championships last season with Risser’s top male runners getting a preview of the course in Newville, and is the preseason favorite to repeat as the course moves closer to home for the Cougars. But Palmyra also has aspirations of a Mid-Penn Keystone championship, especially with the girls’ squad, which is loaded with talent and led by lone senior, Kelsei Bixler. Dave Hollen, in his second season at Palmyra, also expects to see an improvement on the boys’ side from last year’s 5-2 finish.

What follows is a closer look at Lebanon County's cross country programs in the form of capsule previews:

BOYS

Annville-Cleona

Coach - Ben Rhoads - 4th year

Returners - Anthony Frattarole (12), Caleb Wenger (11), Doyle Shertzer (11), Hayden Taylor (11), Shelby Bauer (11), Ethan Fortuna (10)

Key Newcomers - Sean Springer (9), Xavier Carpenter (9), Neil Waldhausen (9), Matthew Inman (9)

Season Outlook - “Last year, we had our ups and downs. We refined our roles and regimen,” said Rhoads. “This year, it feels different. Our team has a good mix of youth and experience. I believe you will see improvement compared to where we were a year ago. Don't be mistaken, there are things we need to continue to improve at and that's our goal each day is to improve, even if it is a little bit. Our team is very ready to compete,” he said.

Biggest Rival - Palmyra

Cedar Crest

Coach - Brandon Risser - 12th year as head coach

Returners -Jesse Cruise (12), Dylan Mehler (12), Devyn Stump (12), Noah Bragunier (11), Josh Rudd (11), Adam Wolfe (11), Jake Barrett (10)

Key Newcomers -William Sheffield (9)

Season Outlook -"In spite of the fact that we lost three of our top 5 finishers at the 2015  League Meet, our boys are well-positioned to have another strong season this fall,” said Risser.  “Everybody knows that we have a very good front-runner in Jesse Cruise, but it is our hope that we will be able to develop the necessary depth to follow up with a strong pack. We have a bunch of runners who have trained hard this summer; it will be exciting see how they develop throughout the season."

Biggest Rival - This changes from season-to-season based on the caliber of our team.

Elco

Coach - Charles “Chuck” Gerberich Years as head coach - 8th year as head coach.

Returning runners - Ryan McAllister (11), Chris Habowski (11), Sterling Hetrick (12)

Key Newcomers - Nick Madigan, Cole Nelson, Chance Leed, Levi Brooks

Season Outlook - Gerberich said, “We should have a few strong runners up front in Ryan, Nick, and Cole, we will just need the next group to fill in and compete to be successful.  In the new alignment and only running within our section, it will be interesting to see how we stack up against those teams.”

Biggest Rivals - AC, NL

Lebanon

Coach - Thomas Pearson - 2nd year as head coach

Returners – Derin Klick (12), Daryl Werni (12), Devon Root (10),  Matthew Hoffman (10)

Key Newcomers – Riley Klick (9); Anier Caldwell Brooks (9)

Season Outlook -  The team is led by seniors Derin Klick and Daryl Werni, who will look to mentor a young group of upcoming runners through a tough Section 1 slate.  Pearson said, “We are looking to getting better everyday and setting our sights on progressing as the season goes and running our best at the end of the season at the League and District Championship.”

Northern Lebanon

Coach - Tricia Schafebook - 1st year back as head coach

Returners - Klayton Adams (12), Jordan Berger (10), Alex Kudlanov (10), Jake Beidler (10), Dante DiAngelis (11), Ben Nguyen (12), Earl Pyles (12), Connor Buckingham (?), Logan Reed (12)

Season Outlook - Schafebook inherits a team that boasts 4 of the top 8 returning from last season and 3 district qualifiers. Like Elco, the Vikings need to fill the 4th and 5th spots to be successful in Section 3.

Palmyra

Coach - Dave Hollen - 2nd season

Returners – Brad Blaszynski (12), Luke Cifuentes (12), Kevin Cole (12), Garrett Funck (12), Evan Megoulas (12), Sean Thomas (12), Alec Richard (11), Lucas Richardson (11), Darius Royer (11), Derek Wadas (11), Alex Buchle (10), Conner Soderstedt (10), Lucas Wenger (10)

Key Newcomers – Matt Carroll, Zachary Toth

Season Outlook – “We should be improved from last year’s 5-2 team,” said Hollen.  He also noted that this is Palmyra’s first year as a AAA team.

Biggest Rival – Hershey and Lower Dauphin are goal meets.  Mechanicsburg was our closest meet last year.

GIRLS

Annville-Cleona

Coach - Ben Rhoads - 1st year

Returners - Zoee Garis (12), Amanda Rhoads (11), Sarah Domencic (11), Zoey Sweigert (10)

Key Newcomers - Mary Tshudy (10), Jessica Gutekunst (9)

Season Outlook - “We may be small but we have some talent within this roster. The biggest challenge for these girls are that they are staring right in the face of change. It is something they will need to embrace, but I believe these girls will and they will see improvement,” said Rhoads. “In order to do that, everyone will need to have patience and continue to work hard. I am very excited to work with these girls and see where the season takes them.".

Biggest Rival - Northern Lebanon


Cedar Crest

Coach - Brandon Risser - 12th year as head coach

Returners -Ashley Stalnecker (12), Taylor Laliberte (11), Hannah McCurdy (11), Elizabeth Nazeeri (11), Cate Strunk (10), Krysta Weik (10), Pam Wuori (10)

Key Newcomers -Shayla Bonzelet (9)

Season Outlook - “We are returning 6 out of our top 8 finishers at the 2015 League Meet and some of those returners have really taken a big step forward as a result of their strong summer training. Ashley Stalnecker in particular has provided great leadership for the girls' team this summer and as a result, we are heading in a good direction now that the season is underway.  Some of our girls need to get 100% healthy, but as long as they get there, we should be better this year than we were last year,” said Risser.

Biggest Rival - This changes from season-to-season based on the caliber of our team.


Elco

Coach - Charles “Chuck” Gerberich - 8th year as head coach.

Returners - Danielle Nelson, Brenna Troutman, Jalissa Nolt

Key Newcomers - Emily Williams, Samantha Strauser, Lillian Brubaker

Season Outlook - Gerberich said, “We are looking forward to staying healthy and seeing the potential of each individual runner.  They each have their goals, and if individually they meet their goals we will have enough for a team score at districts.”

Lebanon

Coach - Thomas Pearson - 2nd year as head coach

Key Newcomers -  Peyton Arnold-Paine (9), Destiny Infante (10)

Season Outlook – “It has been quite some time that the Lebanon girls team has scored at the League championship.  Scoring as a team at the League championship is the goal.  This is a very young group of freshmen and sophomores, so hopefully they can lay the foundation for some success in future years,” said Pearson.

Northern Lebanon

Coach - Tricia Schafebook - 1st year back as head coach

Returners - Drashti Patel (12), Erin Ditzler (10), Shaylynn Yourman (11)

Key Newcomers - Shannon Ostermayer (11), Brianna Seip (10), Sabrina Stumhofer (11), Madison Martin (9)

Season Outlook - Patel just missed out on qualifying for districts last season. Seip, a girls’ soccer player, will pull double duty this fall for the Vikings. The team also got the addition of Ephrata transfer Madison Martin, so Schafebook should be fielding a full team all season.

Palmyra

Coach - Dave Hollen - 2nd season

Returners - Kelsei Bixler (12), Casey  Boehmer (11), Jannae Bonds (11), Hannah Bordner (11), Jacy Carmenatty (11), Emily Cowfer (11), Becky Giordano (11), Ella Herrmann (11), Sarah Hollen (11), Ellie Keck (11), Caroline Williams (11), Maddie Wolfe (11), Amelia Baldo (10), Abbey Dubble (10), Krystal Leung (10)

Season Outlook – “We should be improved from last year, and we should challenge for the Keystone Division Championship,” said Hollen.

Biggest Rival – Hershey, Lower Dauphin


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