MORRIS – For the past two seasons, Morris cross country runner Jacob Wantland has had hip surgery. This year, his senior year, he has a clean bill of health.
It showed Wednesday at the Morris Early Bird Invitational, as Wantland finished fourth overall to lead the Redskins in the 11-team meet.
“It was good to get out on the course,” Wantland said. “The last two years, I have had hip surgery. I knew I took good care of myself,. and I had a good summer coming into my senior year.
“Coach Babson and my teammates have really helped me work hard this summer, and I don’t give my hips a second thought when I am out there running. It’s nice to get out there running, especially on our home course where we are all comfortable. I love running on this course.”
Not only did Wantland give the Redskins their best time, but he also gives them some inspiration every day, said coach Joe Blumberg.
“These kids watch Jake and see how hard he works,” Blumberg said. “He has run more than 300 miles in 10 weeks over the summer. It’s no secret how to get better in distance running. The more you run, the more you can run.
“Hopefully, these other guys on the team see Jake working hard and take from his lead. They have been doing a good job so far. We had a few guys that we kept out today for precautionary reasons. We would rather them be healthy later in the season and help us out than go out and try to run injured during the early going. Plus, Zach Chapman [who finished second in the JV race] would have helped our varsity score, but we wanted him to run in a few JV races to build himself up to varsity pace full time.”
Seneca’s Ross McCormick finished third in the boys race.
In the girls race, it was youth being served, as Gardner-South Wilmington sophomore Daly Galloway – who finished third in the state in Class 1A last year – won the race and Morris freshman Mya Shannon took third in her first varsity race. LaSalle-Peru’s Lesly Rocha, a Class 2A all-stater last year, took second.
“Mya has absolutely nothing to hang her head about,” Blumberg said. “She went up against two of the best we will see. Daly Galloway is unbelievable, and Rocha was an all-stater last year. For Mya, to take third behind them in her first race, is very good. I don’t know if we have had a freshman do as well in her first meet.”
Finishing after Shannon for Morris in the meet were Katherine Gallick, Alexis Holcomb, Emily Burling and Brooke Baudino.
“We know that the gap between Mya and our fifth runner has to get closer,” Blumberg said. “But those girls are all veterans. They know that and their times will get better. We also had Lily and Sophie Tibbott that ran well in the JV race. This was their first meet, too, and we wanted to give them some confidence before we sent them into the fire with the varsity runners.”