Photo by Erik Brooks

Novie McCabe, No. 1161, and Gretta Scholz, No. 1163, led the Lady Lions to their second consecutive state championship in 2017. Both are juniors this year.

Boys return four runners from state championship meet

If the Liberty Bell High School girls’ cross-country team is to maintain its dynastic dominance at the state 1B/2B meet this year, the Lady Lions will do it with a slightly different group of runners.

Liberty Bell has won the past two state meets with impressively low team scores, and junior Novie McCabe took first place at the meet in her freshman and sophomore years.

McCabe is back to defend her title. Junior Gretta Scholz, who took second place at last year’s state meet, also returns but has been slowed by a foot injury incurred during the past Nordic skiing season. Head coach Erik Brooks said Scholz hopes to begin running again soon.

Senior Ella Kuzyk, sixth at last year’s state meet, is back, Brooks said. But the Lady Lions will be missing three-time state meet participant Athena Milani. The senior, who took seventh place at the 2017 state meet, will not be running this year, Brooks said.

Team captain Icel Sukovaty, a senior who was 10th in last year’s state meet, sophomore Liv Aspholm (15th at state) and freshman Eva Weymuller (38th at state) are back for a shot at a three-peat. They will be joined by senior Ava Mott, who studied abroad last year and is returning to competition.

Brooks said he expects some younger runners to make an impact as well.

“The core group is really strong,” the coach said. “We had lots of participation all summer.”

The summer smoke limited outdoor training, but some runners have been riding exercise bikes at Winthrop Physical Therapy and Fitness, as well as in the new Lions Den workout room at Liberty Bell.

The boys’ team, coming off of two straight second-place finishes at the state meet, lost Eli Nielsen to graduation. Walker Hall, the Mountain Lions’ top finisher at state as a junior, is concentrating on Nordic skiing this year. Ian Delong, who competed at state as a freshman, is living in Spain. Returning are four runners who competed at the state meet last year: senior Emerson Worrell, senior Simon Studen, sophomore Travis Grialou and senior Lazo Gitchos.

“There’s good leadership there,” Brooks said.

As with the girls’ team, Brooks said, some younger runners can be expected to step up.

Liberty Bell’s first meet of the year is at the Sehome Invitational in Bellingham on Saturday (Sept. 8).