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Talented runners return for 2020 campaign

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    Laney Doster is among the state’s top runners, ranked sixth across all classifications. CONTRIBUTED
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    Austin Sullivan earned allregion honors a year ago as a freshman. CONTRIBUTED
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    Miriah Hunter is looking to build off a seventh-place finish in the region last year. CONTRIBUTED
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    Haley Smith’s 2019 season was marked by a top-ten region finish. CONTRIBUTED
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    Justus Boyd’s freshman season ended with allregion honorable mention honors. CONTRIBUTED

There are a lot of words that you may hear around the Jones County High School cross country program as it preps for the 2020 season.

Content is not one of them. 

Despite a senior-heavy girls squad coming off yet another top-ten finish in last year’s state meet and the boys having qualified for state competition a year ago, there’s very little resting on the laurels of past accomplishments.

Rather, the focus is not just to meet last year’s marks, but to exceed them.

“The culture of the program is what motivates them. The first couple of years, I had to do a lot more than I do now,” Jones County head cross country coach Geoff Moore said. “When the culture changes, the mood and the way the kids are, they know what the expectations are. When they get here, it does not take but a few weeks for them to know what’s expected.”

The Lady Greyhounds have placed second in the region for the past three years and in the top ten in their classification the past five.

And JCHS appears to have a group in hand to embrace those expectations again a combined five seniors on both sides, three on the girls squad.

“They’re special. This is the first class that I will have had all four years,” Moore said. “They’ve hung in there the whole time and just give us great leadership.”

Any conversation about returning leadership for the Lady Greyhounds starts with Laney Doster. The No. 6 female in all classifications in the state, she’s a three-time region runner-up and all-region selection to go with backto-back top-ten finishes in state competition.

“She’s a great runner. She has taught me a lot about coaching. She is mature beyond her years, and that’s not something you find a lot on this level,” Moore said.

Another all-region pick from a year ago, Miriah Hunter finished seventh in the region a season ago while another senior is also expected to help lead, Haley Smith, also an all-region pick from last year to go with a 10th-place region finish.

On the boys side, the goal is to build off of last year’s state meet appearance, the first for the Greyhounds since 2014. Two all-region selections from 2019, Kyle Whipple and Austin Sullivan, are back for their sophomore campaigns after finishes of sixth and eighth in the region last year. Justus Boyd, an all-region honorable mention last year, is expected to play a key role as well.

Both squads aren’t just eager to exceed expectations. They’re also chomping at the bit to simply compete. Many of the runners on both teams are part of the JCHS track & field team that saw its season cut short in the spring by COVID-19. After more than five months of competing among their own teammates, they are now on the cusp of facing outside competition.

And with that comes what’s been waited on since last spring. Meeting and surpassing expectations.

“You never want to stay where you are, you want to get better every year,” Moore said. “They are hungry not just as individuals, but as a team as well. They expect a lot from each other. The expectation is not just to be part of something; they have goals that they want to achieve.”