The Williamsport boys cross country team is loaded.
The three-time defending Washington County champions return six of their top seven runners from last fall, led by senior star Evan Hardy.
If the Wildcats were still in Class 1A, they likely would be favored to win their first state title since 1975.
However, beginning this fall, Williamsport is now in Class 2A.
“It’s like you waited a long time in line to get something and then, all of the sudden, you have to get in the back of another line,” Williamsport coach Randy Buchman said. “I think our boys team is still very competitive in 2A, but certainly we’re not favored.
“There are only a handful of good teams in 1A, but a ton of them in 2A. But I think we’re definitely one of the better 2A teams.”
Hardy was the 1A state runner-up in cross county last fall, before sweeping state titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs on the track, both indoors and outdoors.
While he would have been the top returnee in 1A, his time from last fall’s state meet (16:56) also is superior to any returnee’s in 2A.
“I’m sure he’ll do exceedingly well this season,” Buchman said. “I don’t think there are too many guys who are going to beat him at the various places we go. He’s excited about 2A, excited about the new competition.”
The Wildcats have two other all-county first-teamers returning from last year — juniors Cody Bowman and Cody Grams.
The Williamsport girls return four of their top seven runners from last year’s team that placed third in the county.
“We’re much improved,” Buchman said. “I don’t know if we’re a championship outfit, but we’re way better than we’ve been the past few years.”
Sophomores Tori Boward and Alex Henry are the top returnees, but freshman Meggan Grams is the Wildcats’ top runner.
“There’s no doubt about it, she’s fast,” Buchman said. “She’s strong and she’s full of guts. She’s a tough kid. ... We’re probably going to need to train her with the boys.”
The North girls are in the same predicament as the Williamsport boys — a dilemma most coaches probably would envy.
The Hubs also are three-time defending county champions with six of their top seven runners returning. And they also have made a leap — from 2A to 3A.
“It’s going to be a huge change, good and bad,” coach Lindsay Zerance said. “Good — we have great competition. Bad — I was just so used to 2A and who to look out for. In 3A, I’m just kind of lost right now.”
She has a pair of Emily’s to help the team find its way — senior Emily Simmons, who placed third in the county last fall, and sophomore Emily Ward, who placed second in the state 1,600 last spring.