For every Polk County cross country runner in the Wolverine program, team coaches keep meticulous records of every meet performance, logging dates, times and locations.
As runners then return to courses they’ve previously run, those charts provide a gauge of how each has progressed.
Wolverine head cross country coach Alan Peoples has studied those charts closely heading into Saturday’s 2A Western Regional meet at Freedom Park in Morganton, and he likes what he sees.
“I feel great about our chances going into the regionals,” Peoples said. “We ran there in our pre-region schedule, and we had some pretty good times. The kids have gotten faster since then.”
With those improved times came two conference titles, as Polk County’s boys and girls squads swept the recent Western Highlands Conference meet at Jackson Park in Hendersonville. Freshman India Godlock also won the girls individual title. How that speed translates against stiffer competition will be put to the test on Saturday, as both Wolverine teams look to finish in the top four and earn a berth to the state championship meet Nov. 2 in Kernersville. The top five individuals not on one of those four teams also qualify for the state meet.
As the Wolverines prepared for practice at Harmon Field earlier this week, they seemed a loose and confident bunch, and their approach to the season could well be one reason why. The Wolverines have tackled tough courses and tough fields since August, an approach that Peoples thinks will pay off on Saturday.
“You never know, from school to school, how accurate the courses they run on are,” Peoples said. “Sometimes schools will post times on courses that aren’t a full 5K.
“Our kids have checked our courses with their GPS as they’ve run, and all of ours have been right at 5K. When we’ve run on those full 5K courses, we’ve had some pretty good times.”
Polk County’s boys squad will enter the regional meet seeded sixth, with the girls squad seeded seventh. In its listing of individual times from this season, NCRunners.com has Polk’s Jacob Collins with the fifth best time in the field and Sean Doyle with the sixth best time. Jake Russell, Jacob Wolfe, Eli Hall, Mitchell Brown and Will Sachse are other key contributors for the Wolverines. Among girls, Godlock’s 20;02.65 in Greensboro is the fourth fastest time. Though not on the NCRunners.com list, Shea Wheeler also stands a good shot at earning a state girls championship berth if the Wolverines fail to advance as a team. Hayley Kropp placed ninth in the conference meet, with Selena Chavez and Britain Hamrick also in the top 15.
Peoples expects Lake Norman Charter, Franklin, Bandys and Shelby to be the top competition in the boys field, with East Lincoln, Lake Norman Charter, Smoky Mountain and Draughn among the top girls squads. Maiden’s Corbin Boyles and East Lincoln’s Frances Massey enter as the individuals with the best race times in the boys and girls fields, respectively.
Taking a break from his re-election campaign in the Tryon mayor’s race, Peoples himself joined the team for a run at that recent practice, as did assistant coach Jenny Wolfe, who Peoples said has been key to the team’s success.
“I couldn’t do it without her,” he said. “We both have other commitments. She has two kids and I have the mayor’s job. It’s almost a symbiotic relationship. If I have a conflict she runs practice, and if she can’t make it I’m here. She does a great job. And these are a darn bunch of good kids.”