Pirates quietly becoming a ‘best kept secret’ in XC world

Nathan Wicker stays near the front of the pack

Considering the fact that Chuck Zobel’s Garaway boys’ cross country team entered this season with its three top runners out of commission, it certainly has been an interesting and challenging season.

However, Zobel has watched with glee as some of the lesser-known Pirates runners have stepped up their gamer, and with a runner-up effort at the Div. III Cambridge district meet Saturday, Oct. 22, the fun continues for the best kept secret in area cross country.

“That was one of the finer efforts I have seen in my 17 years,” Zobel said of his Pirates’ runner up finish. “Considering what we have come through and where we were earlier this year, we have seen some incredible growth in some of these kids.”

Garaway and Caldwell went toe-to-toe for the team title, but down the stretch Caldwell proved to be a little too deep and talented despite Garaway’s best effort. Caldwell won the team title with 37 points while Garaway collected 52, easily getting past third-place Harrison Central’s 103 points.

Zobel said the ultimate goal was to grab one of the top three team sports and advance to regionals. His Pirates did that with ease, and they did so with a group of young men who weren’t exactly on anyone’s radar to begin the year.

That list includes Julian Shrock, who finished fourth in 16:58 and just missed a third place finish, Nathan Wicker, who ran a 17:11 for fifth, Braden Shupe, who placed 13th in 17:55, Collin Hochstetler, who was 18th in 18:06 and Noah Wentworth, who placed 19th in 18:09. Kristian Stocksdale (31st/18:37) and Micah VanFossen (43rd/19:36) rounded out the total team effort.

“This team has always been in the background of some pretty special runners over the years, but I kept telling them when they get to be juniors and seniors, it is going to be their turn to shine,” Zobel said. “They had to prepare for that, and it took them a little while to understand that, but once they did, they have really stepped up and turned into a team to be reckoned with. They have grown up so much.”

Shrock is trying to catch up to his older brother, Alex, who as a Garaway standout. After a slow start, Julian Shrock has burst on to the scene and has actually run past the numbers his brother was running as a sophomore.
Wicker has been rock solid all season for Garaway, the senior always running at the front of the pack for the pirates. He has provided great stability, while Shupe, a junior, has truly developed into a standout runner in his own right.

Hochstetler and Wentworth, a junior and freshman, respectively, have given Garaway five gifted runners. None of them were being touted early on. Instead, talks centered around returning stars Austin Miller and B.J. Schwartz as well as Andrew West. But all three have been relegated to cheerleaders this fall.

“This group of young men have grown up so much, I can’t say enough about them,” Zobel said of his healthy no-namers who are quickly making a name. “They have attacked this season as if they have something to prove. They know we are down three guys, and it’s time to step up.”

Zobel said that one example of this team’s character is that of VanFossen. The Pirates senior only came out for cross country last year, but has made impressive strides in getting a lot better. However, Zobel said that VanFossen’s times aren’t what is the most exciting part of his contribution.

“He has been a really solid asset, and mainly he has been a work ethic kid who has led by example,” Zoble said. “When we try to recruit kids to run, it isn’t always about the talent. I want good kids who know how to work and make a team better simply by their presence. That’s what Micah brings.”

While the Pirates were basking in their team accomplishment, perhaps nobody was more excited to see the Pirates earn a trip to regionals more than Schwartz, who will return to action next week.

“When you’ve got a three-time state qualifier coming back to compete, it is never going to be a bad thing,” Zobel said. “It can only make us stronger.”

With a team that seems to be peaking and gaining confidence daily, the addition of Schwartz can only add to their excitement as regionals draw near.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *