Familiar faces in all the right places
Take a preseason photo of Polk County’s 2014 boys and girls cross country teams and compare it to a snapshot taken of the 2013 conference champion squads, and one thing immediately stands out.
The faces are largely the same.
Save for losing one all-conference performer from each squad, the Wolverine boys and girls return almost intact, a wealth of experience and quality returning that has Polk County setting its sights high for the season ahead.
“We really feel that for the first time in seven years, we’ve got a good chance to qualify both teams for the state meet,” said Polk County assistant coach Jenny Wolfe. “In the conference, we’re the defending champions, obviously, so it’s theirs to lose.”
Both squads placed fifth in the 2A West Regional a year ago, missing a state team berth by a single position, so ample motivation exists for both teams to earn a trip to Raleigh.
To do so, the Wolverine boys will have to find someone to replace USC Upstate signee Jacob Collins, a state meet qualifier last year. But junior Sean Doyle also qualified for the 2A meet with a sixth-place effort at the 2A West Regional and placed fourth in the WHC meet a year ago. He’s expected to be the leader of a talented, albeit not deep, squad.
“It’s not so much quantity, because we’ve only got eight kids there, but quality,” Wolfe said of the Polk boys. “You only need five to score, and we definitely have that quality.”
Returning senior Eli Hall is joined by juniors Mitchell Brown, Jake Russell, Jacob Wolfe and Will Sachse. Another senior, Caleb Brown, joins the team after a successful spring track season, and Polk’s roster has been buoyed by East Henderson transfer Mark Federman, also a senior.
“His (personal record) time would have been third-best on our team last season,” Wolfe said.
The Wolverine girls lost all-conference runner Shea Wheeler to graduation, but welcome back sophomore India Godlock, who emerged late in the year to win the WHC individual title, place fourth in the regional meet and advance to state competition, where she finished 11th. The niece of Polk County legend Karen Godlock, named last year as one of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s “100 To Remember,” India Godlock is already building her own resume as a future Wolverine great.
Also back for Polk County is junior Hayley Kropp, another all-conference selection.
“For the girls, there’s a lot of quantity,” Wolfe said. “This might be the most we’ve ever had on the team. We’re young, with a lot of incoming freshmen. Obviously, we’re led by India Godlock. I think she has the potential to go sub-19 (minutes) and finish in the top six in the state.”
Senior Emily Kocher has joined the team after competing with the Wolverine track team in the spring, as have Emma Wagoner and Savannah Robbins. Selena Chavez is part of a group of returnees that also includes Leah Hardin and Shelby Wells.