Numbers are up, Shepherd Hill girls cross country team aiming high
The 2022 Shepherd Hill girls cross country team. Photo submitted by Coach Fossas.
By CHRISTOPHER TREMBLAy Staff Sports Writer
Over the years the girls cross-country squad at Shepherd Hill Regional High School has been typically a formidable team with resilient athletes, but once the Covid pandemic hit things changed course for the Rams.
“Historically we’ve been a strong girls cross country team, but Covid caused our numbers to plummet,” Shepherd Hill Cross Country Coach Nicole Fossas said. “I’m not exactly sure why, but girls stayed away from the sport. This year numbers are starting to rebound.”
Running in the Midwatch A League, Shepherd Hill will have eight seniors, one sophomore and five freshmen take to the starting line this fall. According to the coach, things have looked good during the early part of the season and with the incoming freshmen, who look to contribute, the Rams should be stronger than last year.
Last fall Shepherd Hill finished 5th in the Division 1C Tournament and went onto the All-State Meet, where the team finished 21st.
Looking to get Shepherd Hill back to the post-season will be senior co-captains Emily Mullen and Grace Bateman. Mullen, who grabbed an eighth-place finish at the State Sectionals, looks to be the team’s number one runner, but Bateman will push her for that top spot. Mullen posted a personal best time of 19:10 while Bateman was at 20:30 last year.
“They are both fantastic runners and as captains will set the tone and culture of the team encouraging the younger girls to put in the work,” the coach said. “They are a great overall group that works hard and wants to win. Grace is already running at last year’s pace and should do better as the season goes on.”
The team’s third runner will be newcomer sophomore Meghan Stevens. The first-year cross-country runner has run winter and spring track for the school. Senior Karlee White will be right behind Stevens in the fourth spot.
Following the top four runners, Fossas has two freshmen who look to be a force on the varsity level for Shepherd Hill. Emily Hultgren and Megan Andress have already shown their prowess during their first junior varsity race.
“Emily won the junior varsity race with a time of 20:50, some two and a half minutes better than her closest competitor. Megan, who had a good summer, finished fifth,” Fossas said. “It was their first-ever high school race, and I wanted them to get comfortable before running with the varsity team.”
Both girls look as though they are ready to run with the varsity squad. Both girls ran a hard and poised race, and the coach has high hopes for their futures.
Another athlete looking to get back into running the cross-country course is senior Lilly Bateman, twin sister to Grace. Unfortunately, she was injured for the majority of the season last fall and didn’t get to run until the very end of the season. However, she has worked extremely hard during the off-season and is ready to show improvement on the course this year.
With a solid core of girls taking to the courses in the Midwatch A League Fossas believes that the Shepherd Hill runners will be in the mix, while looking to improve upon their fifth place Divisional Meet finish in addition to getting to the State Tournament.