West Forsyth cross country teams sweep titles in Norman Trzaskoma Invitational for second straight year

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 5, 2019

By Marc Pruitt
For the Clemmons Courier

The West Forsyth girls’ and boys’ cross-country teams ran their way to their second straight team championships in the Norman Trzaskoma Invitational last week at Ivey Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville.

With both teams mixing experience along with talented newcomers, the program also has somewhat of a different look at the top.

Nathan Newsome, the longtime coach of the girl’s team,  also assumed responsibilities as the boy’s coach after the retirement of Jeff Thompson at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

“It’s like you get used to juggling three balls, and then someone throws you three more,” Newsome said with a laugh. “It’s the same job, there’s just a lot more of it.”

The results, so far, have also been the same.

In the girl’s race, the Titans scored 36 points to edge Mount Tabor, which finished with 41.

Junior Kendall Phillips led the charge with a second-place finish in 11 minutes, 58.23 seconds. Junior Bailey Reutinger (12:21.92) was fourth, Junior Eliza Broce, last year’s individual champion, was fifth in 12:25.26, and sophomores Taylar White (13:15.21) and Kelly Smith (13:18.83) finished 12th and 13th, respectively.

In the boy’s race, the Titans placed four runners in the top-10 and finished with 51 points to slip past Mount Tabor (57).

Junior Jeremy Eldredge led the way with a fifth-place finish in 10:35.49, followed closely by junior Jackson Nichols (sixth in 1036.32) and senior Will Atkins (seventh in 10:36.91). Senior Andrew Okon, a transfer from Maryland, was ninth in 10:42.24. The fifth scoring runner was freshman Brandt Doty, who finished 24th in 11:05.97 and was the top overall freshman in the two-mile race.

“Neither race, when they were finished, did I think we had won,” Newsome said. “And it was hard for me to tell because I was tending to a lot more of the administrative duties since we were hosting the event and I wasn’t doing what I would normally do before also becoming the boy’s coach. It ended up being a really good day for both teams because we stuck to a particular kind of race strategy that was executed very well. It’s a great way to start the season.”

Newsome has high hopes for both teams. The girls finished second at the NCHSAA 4-A state championship meet last year and the boys are the defending Midwest 4-A Regional champions.

“We still haven’t run a full 5K yet with everyone healthy on either team,” Newsome said. “If we can stay consistent and stay healthy, I think we will be in pretty good shape. You are always going to have some holes to fill every year, but we have plenty of experience returning that should help with that for both teams.”

Of his top-10 girls runners, there are no seniors, something that Newsome is really excited about.

“That means we get two years with this group who already have some great results,” he said. “Our expectations with that group are high but we keep the stress low because we don’t talk about those. We’re still trying to get everyone healthy. Eliza (Broce) had a stress fracture and missed the entire spring. She still isn’t able to train five days a week yet, but she isn’t too far off from where she was last year. That’s really encouraging. I think this group should be in the mix for the state championship again this year.”

The boy’s team has dealt with some of the same issues in regard to injuries. Senior Will Atkins, who won a state indoor title in the 1,000 during the winter, isn’t quite back to full speed yet after battling through some minor injuries.

“That group, overall, was pretty young last year,” Newsome said. “We expect that they will be even better, though. What they showed at the county meet was that their pack-running style was really effective. I think the key with that group will be developing a consistent fifth runner. We got a great performance from Brandt Doty (at the county meet), which is what ended up winning it for us. He was the top freshman boy in the meet. Overall, I think the boys are capable of surprising some people if we can keep everyone healthy.”

Newsome praised the efforts of his assistant coaches that have been helping to maintain a smooth transition.

“We’ve got some really good ones that each bring something to the table,” he said.

“Lynn Peterson, who has a daughter on the team and was the girl’s cross-country coach when they won their first state championship, brings a wealth of experience,” Newsome said. “She has a great demeanor and a great personality, which is a great asset for us. Amber Brown has been a huge help with everything as well. Patrick Phillips, whose daughter Kendall runs for us, is kind of a legend in local running circles. He ran at Wake Forest and won a state championship with Watauga in 1988. And Tina White is a certified fitness instructor who helps us with our core workouts and brings so much energy. None of this would be possible without their help and the support of our parents.”

West is scheduled to head to Wilmington on Friday for the “Beach Blast” race, weather permitting, before getting going with Central Piedmont 4-A meets later this month.