Pelion’s cross country program has been one of the most consistent in the state over the past two decades under longtime coach Mark Bedenbaugh.
The Panthers, in fact, have been Top 10 fixtures since the start of the Class 2A division in the 1990s. The Pelion boys team has made the Top 10 cut 16 times in 18 tries since the small-school race at state debuted in 1992. The girls squad has failed to crack the Top 10 just one times since the 2A inaugural in 1995.
“We have established some tradition, but every season it all comes down to the same thing: how much to the kids want to work to achieve their goals,” said Bedenbaugh.
The boys team will build around three returning runners from the starting lineup that produced a fifth-place state finish a year ago – seniors Brandon Earwood and William Fulmer and freshman Aubrey Hite. Earwood and Hite finished 50th and 53rd, respectively, at state last year.
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Bedenbaugh expects newcomer Dominick Stogner to challenge for the No. 1 spot on the team.
The girls squad returns a more proven bunch, including sophomores Nevada Minard and Patricia Garcia and junior Morgan Payne.
Minard already is a three-time all-state runner and a state champion. He finished fourth at state as a seventh-grade rookie, rose to the top in 2008 and slipped back to sixth place last season.
Newcomers to watch are senior Lindsay Rucker and seventh-grader Lauren Gunter.