Hampton boys cross country under the radar, on the upswing

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Saturday, September 4, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Hampton’s top three competitors at last year’s WPIAL Class 2A cross country finals were Nathan Garrett, Dale Hall and Michael Belch.

All three are back this season.

“They have done some good work this summer,” coach Dean Longwell said. “Michael started the (2020) season injured and is coming into this year healthy. Nathan and Dale were only freshmen last year and really surprised us, becoming a couple of our top runners.

“So now, they’re another year older and stronger and have the experience of high school cross country under their belt. I’m looking forward to see how much they have progressed this season.”

Belch, a senior, and Garrett placed 45th and 46th at last year’s WPIAL meet, followed by Hall in the 60th spot.

“We’re pumped for this season,” Belch said. “This is a team sport, and we have a lot of depth. We have our eyes on being a top three team at WPIALs, which would give us a spot at states.

“There are a lot of impressive young runners on the team that will keep getting faster. Right now, we’re kind of under the radar, but we know what we can do. We don’t just want to go to the dance; we want to win it.”

Belch has a weighted GPA of 4.458 and is a member of the school’s marching band.

“I’m also a swimmer and made WPIALs last year when Hampton won,” he said.

Belch would like to continue his running career in college and major in engineering.

Two other returning runners from the Talbots’ top seven a year ago are seniors Jackson McGrath and Quentin Romero-Lauro, who has been nursing an injury.

“We also have a couple talented freshmen, Christopher Belch, Michael’s younger brother, and Nathan Gardner, who will most likely contribute to the varsity team,” Longwell said.

Hampton returned to Class 2A last year and finished 11th at the WPIAL team championships. Longwell is looking forward to the team’s participation Sept. 11 in the Red, White and Blue Invitational.

“We should have a competitive team in 2A, and this invitational is a good early season measuring stick,” Longwell said. “But that’s all it is, just letting us know where we stand and what kind of work we have entering the main competition season.”

Other runners hoping to make an impact for the Talbots include seniors Zach Krills, Ryan Leyes and Alan Wolfe, junior Tyler Welch and sophomores Jacob Bonnar, Liam Butler, Greg Gropelli, Layne Haught and Blaise White.

Along with Belch and Gardner, the program’s top freshmen include Jacob Barton, Brendon Capsambellis, Tyler Fitzgerald, Patrick Light, Myles McKinney and Ian Rayko.

“The boys team has huge potential,” said Belch, the senior. “We’ve all worked really hard all summer. My younger brother Chris and I have trained almost every day together over the summer.

“I set a goal for myself to be in the top 15 at WPIALs and make states, while helping lead the team to states.”

Hampton competes in Division I, Section 3 in the WPIAL, along with Butler, Mars, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley and Shaler.

Hampton and Mars are the only 2A squads in the section; all others are 3A.

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