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Boys aim to return to state

by | Aug 5, 2022 | Sports

Fresh off of its first-ever team state championship appearance, the Wylie boys cross country team returns several runners to the fold.

The Pirates returned five of their seven runners from the varsity team last season, which finished fifth overall at the UIL 6A state championship with 146 points. Leaving the team is graduating senior Nathaniel Berhane, who crossed the finish line fifth overall at the state meet. Berhane is enrolling at the University of Texas to run next season.

Despite losing one of the team’s top runners, head coach Calley Conner believes the team has what it takes to compete at the state level again.

“We always want to compete at the state level,” Conner said. “We have two excellent runners leading the group coming back that we’d like to see on the medal stand and then young runners coming up that can continue to help the team this year and in the future.”

Hunter Jackson and Caden Biltz are the top two returning runners for the Pirates. Both finished in the top 50 at state, with Jackson coming in 27th and Biltz in 47th place. It’s the second season in a row that Wylie has replaced its top runner on the cross-country team, and coach Conner believes it would speak volumes about the team to continue to churn out consistent results.

“It starts with your top runners taking on a bigger leadership role and building that culture and expectation,” Conner said. “It takes really hard work to be in the position you’re in, but some things have to bounce our way as well. It takes more than just being a great runner you have to be your best every meet.”

Jackson has continued to improve each season in the Pirates program. Of the returning runners from the state championship, he held the 15th fastest time from that meet and improved his time by nearly 30 seconds from his sophomore year. He’ll be asked to be the leader this season and set the pace, something Conner thinks he can handle.

“We’re expecting really big things from him,” Conner said. “He’s been doing really good stuff for us and we think could compete for a medal.”

Biltz, Nathan Moore, Liam Gardiner and Landin Wolfe round out the returning runners for Wylie. Biltz and Moore both have improved their time from the track season, with Conner saying they’re poised to make big leaps in 2022.

“The key for us is to fill out the back half of the team at this point,” Conner said. “The key for a team to be good is those back runners doing well and stepping up. You can have three guys finish in the top 15 and not win state if you don’t have a complete team from top to bottom.”

For the full story, see our Aug. 3 issue or subscribe online.

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