Members of Polk County's girls cross country team prepare for the season-opening race at Jackson Park.

With a few solid first-race-of-the-season performances, it was evident who prepared to race cross country early in the season, even before the start of school. Summer miles can bring August smiles, or a slight grin according to how well team members prepare over the summer to be ready to race 3.1 miles.

Polk County’s cross country teams competed in the Western North Carolina Cross Country Carnival on August 24 at Jackson Park in Hendersonville. Almost 50 teams from Tennessee and North and South Carolina raced the gently rolling hills and muddy terrain. The Carnival provides a great season preview of where teams are in the race to prove which schools and individuals are the fastest in 2013. The Carnival features eight races for both boys and girls; championship 5K (3.1 miles), invitational 5K, individual 5K and the 3K.

Polk’s Lady Wolverines were lead by freshman India Godlock, who placed 4th overall (21:44) in the girls invitational 3.1 mile race. Unsure of what to expect from a freshman who moves up from racing only two miles to the 5K event, her efforts were pleasing. She will be a Wolverine to watch. India came through the first mile in 6:35, a strong statement of getting out hard and gaining good race placement for the remaining 2.1 mile stretch. Shea Wheeler ran 25:05, Britain Hamrick 26:21, Leigh Deavor 27:29, Nancy Silva 28:42, Shelby Wells 28:16. The top five places of each team member are tallied for team score and low score wins. The Lady Wolverine squad placed 15th overall with an average time of 25:47. To be competitive, we have to get five ladies ready to race a 7:30 pace per mile and finish in the 23:00 range. Polk had 3 girls fail to finish in the individual girls event, each working for personal records up to the 2 mile mark: Kathryn Johnson, Leah Hardin and Jessica Bailey.

The Wolverine men’s team was sparked by senior Jacob Collins. Collins averaged 5:38 per mile finishing in 17:32, a 36 second improvement over last year’s performance on the same course. With ample preparation Collins aims to better his 17:03 personal record from last season and lower his time to the low 16’s. The expectation is that dedicated runners will be as fast or faster on each race course year after year and sophomore Sean Doyle did not disappoint. Doyle also bettered his 2012 Carnival position by 36 seconds to run 18:18. Newcomer Mitchell Brown held 6:30 pace in his first 5K as a Wolverine to finish in 20:11. Jacob Wolfe finished fourth for the Wolverine squad in 20:48. Eli Hall did not finish. Without five finishers Polk did not tally a team score.

The Wolverine men’s team, led by Collins and Hall, took four fabulous freshmen to the State Championships last year for the first time in seven seasons and they plan to return bigger, faster, stronger with all returning sophomores and the addition of Brown. Polk will be looking for someone to fill the shoes of its 2012 graduate, Chip Collins, who ran in the low 17’s. In 2012 Polk men finished 7th in the state among 2A schools and averaged 17:55 for their top five finishers.

We found our base and now we know where we need to go from here. The miles will pile up, the speed workouts and hill repeats will accumulate and times will begin to fall. It was evident which area competitors we have to be preparing to race in upcoming events. Tanis Baldwin of East Henderson posted a stellar 15:44 finish in the men’s championship race. It was nice to see a local kid win the big event. The last local win on what several area school consider our home course was Milos Mitric of Asheville in 2001 in the inaugural Carnival. Mitchell’s Zach Boone (16:16) also made his commitment transparent, our top boys will be pitted against him in the Western Highlands Conference Championships in late October. We are the Wolverines and will be ready!