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Collins’ cross-country teams are coming off of seasons that were second to almost no one.
The boys’ squad finished second, and the girls took third, in the Class 2A State Championships last November.
Both teams open their seasons Saturday in the Shelby County Invitational.
Here is a quick look at each team:
In only their second season the Titans finished second behind North Oldham at the state meet. The Mustangs graduated last year’s state champ (Taylor Sanders) and also have a new coach this season. With most of its team returning, Collins has a chance to make a run at a state title.
“There’s a definite possibility,” Titans Coach Stephen Drawbaugh said. “I really feel like we have a really good shot, [but] we have to keep our focus.”
Collins will be led this season by seniors Devon Fielding and Nolan Petty and junior Justin Downs.
“Devon, Justin and Nolan will have big years,” Drawbaugh said. “Those three guys are definitely the leaders.”
Fielding finished eighth at the state meet last season, while Downs placed 23rd and Petty 36th.
“We definitely have a possibility of those three in the top fifteen this year,” said Drawbaugh, whose team finished 87 points behind North Oldham at the state meet.
But those aren’t the only Titans returning from last season. Also back are juniors Alex Sells, Cody Thompson (who ran at state last year) and Stevie Smith. Sells finished second in Collins’ 3K preseason meet.
“He should be stepping up,” Drawbaugh said.
Also returning are sophomores Jay Solinger and Steven Cheppo (who also ran at state last year) as well as freshman Jacob Hershberger, who is coming back from a broken ankle.
“We’ve got a really good team coming back so long as they keep working hard,” Drawbaugh said.
In all Collins’ roster includes three seniors (Dvontre Coleman is the other), four juniors, four sophomores and seven freshmen. Included among those frosh is Ryan Hunter, the middle school team’s No. 2 runner last year.
“We have a really strong team as long as improvements are made,” Drawbaugh said.
The Titans lost one state champ (2010 titlist Caterina Karas), but return another – eighth-grader Gabby Karas, who won last year’s state meet as a seventh-grader by nearly 16 seconds over her older sister.
Those two helped the Titans to a third-place finish last fall. Caterina Karas, who is now a freshman runner for Xavier University, was the only senior on that team.
“I think we have a good shot at doing well,” Drawbaugh said. “We’ve got a lot of bigger ‘ifs’ [than the boys’ team though]. The girls’ team is just a little thinner as far as numbers. But it has the possibility to do well, because we do have good numbers up top.”
In addition to Gabby Karas – who should be the prohibitive favorite to win state again considering that the third-place finisher last year (Highlands’ Lauren Ossege) was more than 1:10 behind her – senior Maria Cozzens also returns for the Titans. Cozzens had a breakout season last fall when she finished 16th at state.
“Having [Gabby] competing for state and if Maria does well, like she did last year, [we should be okay],” Drawbaugh said.
Several sophomores also return to the team. They include Sinead Maharrey, Elizabeth McGuire, Brandi Pratt and Maddie Lefler.
“All of them ran extremely well at regional [last year],” Drawbaugh said. Maharrey was 26th at the region meet, then followed that up with a solid spring.
“Sinead has looked great,” Drawbaugh said. “The gains she made in track have continued, and she’s made huge improvements this year.”
Pratt, meanwhile, returns after having surgery on her leg in June. “She’s excited, she wants to run and is ready to run, but it’ll take a little time,” Drawbaugh said.
Also on the squad are freshmen Brenna Meyer and Kirsten Suter. Both Titan teams host their first home meet Oct. 6.
“I’m excited about it, the course is in good shape,” Drawbaugh said.
“There’s a little work that needs to be done, little things to take care of, but if we can get a few teams here hopefully they’ll realize how nice it is.”
Titans at a glance
Last season: Collins’ boys’ team finished second and the girls’ squad third at the state meet last year.
Key boys’ team losses: Matthew Folsom, Thomas Smith.
Key girls’ team loss: Caterina Karas.
Returning boys’ runners: Devon Fielding, Justin Downs, Nolan Petty, Jay Solinger, Steven Cheppo, Jacob Hershberger, Alex Sells, Cody Thompson.
Returning girls’ runners: Gabby Karas, Maria Cozzens, Sinead Maharrey, Elizabeth McGuire, Brandi Pratt.