New runners make strides for Hampton cross country team

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Thursday, October 3, 2019 | 7:56 PM


This season, Dean Longwell was looking for growth from the Hampton cross country team — and that’s what he’s seen across the board.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that last year were new to cross country,” Longwell said. “Guys that didn’t make soccer, one kid was in the band, Mike Belch gave up golf … the fact that they ran this summer, they’re running one to two minutes faster than they did last year.

“That’s what we’ve been looking for is that type of improvement.”

Josh Holmes is off to a solid start, and if his progression continues like it has, he could earn a trip to states, giving Hampton its second qualifier in two years (Joey Cafaro).

“He said his goal coming in was to run pretty much a minute faster on each course,” Longwell said. “And he’s holding true to that.”

Holmes finished 21st at the Annual Red, White & Blue Invitational Sept. 7th, a race with 279 entrants. He followed that with a 15th-place finish Sept. 14 at the Boardman Spartan Invitational.

“I definitely think I have another level I think I can kick it into,” Holmes said. “But the results from the beginning of the season, I’m happy with. The times that I’ve been running, I’m achieving where I want to be at. Just trying to keep it going.”

Joe Fish likely didn’t have the start he wanted at Red, White & Blue, but has come on strong lately with a 54th-place finish at Boardman out of 339 runners — a minute faster than last season. Hampton fared well in the Ohio race overall, finishing in the top half of the team competition (18th out of 44).

“He really has been a competitive No. 2 runner for us,” Longwell said. “I think he’s taken on a lot and he’s got a challenging schedule in school. The leadership has been there.”

Belch has been a strong No. 3 this year, and Alan Wolfe has been predominately a No. 3 or No. 4-type-runner. Austin Garrett, who was dealing with a potential stress fracture near the beginning of the season, has also fared well after about three weeks off.

“Getting Michael from golf has been huge for us,” Holmes said. “He’s been instrumental in our team this year. And getting Alan trained for the entire summer, he came over late from soccer last year and wasn’t able to get that training. He put in a lot of work this summer. I’m happy have both of those guys.”

“We’ve been telling them since late August, the goal is running their best time come the Tri-State and WPIAL meet,” said Longwell, whose team loss to Mars and Seneca Valley on Tuesday night dropped its record to 2-4.

“Some of these meets we have to work through a bit. The goal is to run the best by the end of the season and they’re progressing that way.”

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