Hawken returns six starters from the team that finished fifth at the state cross country meet and won regional, district and league titles last fall.
The Hawks open the season on Saturday at their own invitational with the goal of improving on their placement at state.
“The team has a goal to finish better than the fifth place at last year’s state meet,” said sixth-year coach Christopher Farroni. “The team has been working hard throughout the summer to be prepared to improve on their individual efforts throughout the season, which will then reflect in the team’s finish.”
Leading the way for Hawken is sophomore Ella Gilson, the Chagrin Valley Conference MVP, who also won a district title and earned All-Ohio honors. She also finished second in the 800-meter and 1600-meter runs at the state track meet last spring.
Gilson holds a personal record of 18:48.
“Ella came on the scene like a wildfire last year,” Farroni said. “What she accomplished in cross country and track and field as well as swimming was incredible for a freshman. She has the strength and speed to be able to surpass last year’s results and be one of the elite runners in Northeast Ohio.”
Sophomore Juliana Metz finished second to her teammate in both the CVC and district meets and also earned All-Ohio honors.
She has a PR of 18:53.
“Last season, Juliana was the steady force week in and week out,” Farroni said. “She has demonstrated the desire to improve upon the success she had last year. She is a strong runner who has the capabilities to help the team reach its goals.”
Junior captain Julia Newman finished fourth at districts and qualified for the state meet. She holds a PR of 19:08.
“Julia has been working hard throughout the offseason in an effort to be an elite runner,” Farroni said. “She has the capabilities and through her commitment and desire she can raise the level of her game this season.”
Sophomore Lena Sylvan is a first-year cross country runner but she qualified for the state track meet in the 4×400 and 4×800-meter relays and also ran the 800.
“Lena is a great athlete,” Farroni said. “As a swimmer and in track and field she demonstrated her competitive instincts. She has the potential to fit into the top five and help the team achieve its season goals.”
Senior captain Ellie Weiss is a two-year captain and will push the pack. She holds a PR of 21:27.
“The passion for cross country that she brings each day helps create a positive and supportive culture for the team,” Farroni said.
Hawken doesn’t have the numbers of some of the other elite teams in the state so the Hawks will rely on staying healthy and focused this season.
“(We have to) approach each training session with a positive outlook, which will result in small successes each day,” Farroni said. “We will also need to develop the younger runners on the team so that they can reach their potential throughout the season.”