PREVIEW | Cross Country Set to Open Season on Saturday Morning

Photo courtesy of Renee Kean

FRANKLIN, Ind. – As they gear up to hit the course for the first time this fall, the Franklin cross country teams enter the year as opposites when it comes to team composition.

On the men's side, the Grizzlies return their top four runners, which features a pair of all-conference runners on a team loaded with experience up and down the lineup. Meanwhile, the FC women's club will feature a more youthful squad, made up almost exclusively of underclassmen and rookies.

"We had both teams work very hard this summer to get ready for the year," Third-year head coach Brandon Dworak noted. "That's a great place to start for both teams and our kids have looked great in time trials so far. There's excitement with what both teams can do this year but there's also plenty of optimism for the future based on the new wave of runners coming in."

Heading up a deep and experienced men's roster are a pair of all-conference performers from 2018 in seniors Clayton Brumfield and Blaine Conners. Brumfield became a three-time All-HCAC runner a year ago with a fourth-place finish at the conference championships. Conners earned the honor for the first time in his career, placing seventh against the league's top performers.

Junior Chris Graham and senior Adam Rector consistently sat in the third and fourth positions for the Grizzlies a year ago and both have had strong camps this fall. On top of their strong performances in camp, the veteran runners for the men have taken their young teammates under their wings, setting an example for the next wave of Grizzlies to take over after this year.

"Our men's team is very top-heavy with established runners and that makes my job easier," Dworak said. "We have six seniors and a lot of upper-classmen that have done a good job of steering the ship and dictating our expectations to our freshmen. Having that dynamic in camp is great."

The Grizzly women will feature a more youthful group of harriers that welcomes back four members from last year's team and seven incoming freshmen. Senior Jayla Callens, junior Grace Esterline and sophomore Taylor Wooten were all consistent scorers for the Franklin women in 2018 and along with junior Morgan Clarke, have wasted no time shepherding in the seven freshmen.

Despite a group full of new faces, the progress shown in training by the Franklin women are giving their head coach plenty of optimism not only for the 2019 season, but for the campaigns to follow.

"We have a lot of new faces with the women, but we still have a great group of leadership among our returners," Dworak continued. They've been influential during the pre-season and I'm excited about our women's team. It's going to be fun watching our young runners step up and score for us and make progressions throughout the year."

The Grizzlies will get to show off their progress to their home fans on Saturday, Aug. 31, when they head to their home course at Blue River Park in Shelbyville, Ind. for the 2019 Grizzly Invitational. The opening race is set for 10:00 a.m.