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2014 KENTUCKY STANDARD CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW: Hughes, Ballard to lead strong NC squads

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Nelson County Cardinals Cross Country Preview

By Darren George

The Nelson County cross country squads are looking to continue on a path of success during the 2014 season.

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The girls’ squad qualified for the state meet for the second year in a row, while the boys are returning all of their varsity runners, and have high expectations of landing a spot in the state competitions later this fall.

“We see cross country as a very social sport here at NCHS,” assistant coach Brian O’Neill said. “It takes someone seeing the sport as a joy for running. We have very high hopes this year as we offer some very good standout performers.”

The boys expect to see junior Jonathan Long and senior Will Ballard as a couple of their frontrunners, while sophomore Kelsey Hughes — who finished 24th in the Class 2A state championship last year — will be called upon to lead the girls’ squad.

“We spent last year rebuilding, and I think we should do well this season,” Ballard said. “I would like to beat the school record for a personal best, and it would be great to have our boys team go to state.”

Last season, the boys’ team just missed going to the state by a narrow margin, but they are returning a strong core, with a lot of experience.

Nick McGaughey should also be a dominant force on the trails. The senior had a good offseason, and returns for a final run for the Cards.

“We did all right last year, but we are a much stronger team this time around,” McGaughey said. “We need to build our numbers, but overall, I think we will do pretty good. We will have some tough competition, as I think Thomas Nelson will be stout, but hopefully we can get them this year. We just need to work together and get our (personal record times) up.”

The girls will look to step it up and again run for a state title, something senior Lindsay Carrico said is quite possible.

“We are looking for all our girls to fare well and improve over the course of the season,” she said. “If we can come together, it’s possible we could be a state contender. If we go out and do our best, that’s all anyone could ask for.”

The girls will vary with experience, and will have some young talent approaching the paths, but are still looking to compete at an intense level.

Cross country scoring is set with a team of seven runners, with the top five lowest times being counted for scoring purposes.

Dan Bradley is the Cards head coach, but has added O’Neill to his cross country staff, after he helped coach the NCHS track squads last year.

O’Neill has more than 20 years of coaching experience, and said he expects both units to compete and have fun this year.