Clarion-Limestone Cross Country Celebrates Great 2021 Season With Team Banquet

(Team photo submitted: Clarion-Limestone Cross Country Team: (Front L-R) Caitlyn Wolfe, Clara Coulson, Reise Jackson, Jessica McCracken, Morgan McNaughton, Olivia Radaker, Kaley Miliron, Emma Zacheral, Kennedy Haggerty, Paul Craig, Kevin Mumford, Riley Rinker, Drake Edmonds. (Middle L-R) Sam Simpson, Logan Leadbetter, Madison Aaron, Raegan Love, Julianna Schwabenbauer, Kalyssa Ferguson, Logan Meier, Charlie Hepfl, Logan Lutz, Reagan Parker, Nate Standfest. (Back L-R) Aiden Coulson, Corbin Coulson, Jack Craig, Cody Whitling, Ty Rankin, Colin Haggerty, Colton Keihl, Aron Miliron. (Missing) Gabriel Smith, Adisen Jackson, Sydney Smith and Riley Smith.)

(By Clarion-Limestone Head Coach Nicole Oakes)

On Sunday, November 14th, the Clarion-Limestone Cross Country team and families gathered at Pisgah Presbyterian Church’s Social Hall to celebrate a great 2021 season, where we highlighted the saying, “Always Earned, Never Given.” 

This year there were a greater number of things to celebrate at our end of the season banquet, first being simply, the team growth from 18 runners last year to 37 kids on the team this year. The increase in numbers added depth to our team that helped support a number of successes that were celebrated, including our Jr. High girls earning  the northwestern regional middle school champs title,  and 2nd place team finishes for both the varsity girls and varsity boys teams within the conference. 

This season is the fifth season that Erin and I have coached together, and the first that we have had four full teams to compete. This season also marks the most athletes, since we took over the program, who were named to the All-Conference teams: 

Girls MVP Morgan McNaughton

First Team: Logan Lutz

Second Team: Jessica McCracken, Clara Coulson, Olivia Radaker, Jack Craig, Ty Rankin 

 and the most state qualifiers at one time since we have started coaching:

Morgan McNaughton, Logan Lutz, Ty Rankin 

In addition to her All-Conference MVP, and state qualifier/medalist recognition, were were able to highlight Morgan McNaughton as being the first EVER cross country athlete at C-L to be a state medalist! WOW Morgan!  You made Lions’ History! 

Within the team we also were able to celebrate student successes, including five runners that cut more than four minutes off of their race time from the beginning to the middle of the season on our home course. We did not have an end of season race on our home course to see how even farther these athletes came in the final four weeks of the season, but Reagan Parker, Raegan Love, Riley Rinker, Logan Meier, and Caitlyn Wolfe all had the numbers to show their improvement this season. 

We took time to celebrate our athletes that balanced participating in multiple sports or school extracurriculars during our season, including Cody Whitling (soccer), Jack Craig (Golf, AAU BB), Charlie Hepfl (Football), Clara Coulson (Dance), Morgan McNaughton, Emma Zacheral, Aron Miliron (Marching Band). Additionally, we had seven Jr. High girls that spent the last few weeks of the season running in XC meets and attending Jr. girls basketball practices. 

With the increase in total number of athletes the team also added some necessary additional help, including team managers Sam Simpson, and Aiden Coulson, and invaluable third coach, Kelsey Makin.  

One of the favorite parts of the evening is always watching the season recap video, put together by our parents (this year Becky Whitling) with pictures taken throughout the season (Diane Lutz, Lisa Standfest and coaches). Not only are the athletes’ grit and determination on the course highlighted, but also the fun memories made at practice, the muddy mess of running at Rocky Grove, and smiles after earning those precious medals. 

While choking back tears of pride, we ended the evening with recognizing our seniors. Before this year we have had four other seniors total. This year, five more “kids” move on to pursue their dreams. Especially, difficult for all of us; these athletes were Junior High runners when we started and we have so treasured growing with them over the last five years.

While senior, Corbin Coulson actually is family, nephew to coach Erin Hepfl, Jessica McCracken, Morgan McNaughton, Logan Leadbetter and Cody Whitling AND their families, have also become our family. Each of them have so many talents, but most importantly great character and hearts to enter the world and make a difference. We will not soon forget our senior class of 2021, and hopefully their little parting gift will help them remember us too! 😉

(GREAT SEASON, LIONS!!!! AND CONTINUED SUCCESS!!!!! Thanks to Coach Oakes for this article and to the Lions’ Cross Country for the team photo.)