When COVID-19 disrupted their normal summer training, Carolina Forest’s cross country runners took it upon themselves to get their miles.
They set up small groups, and ran while keeping their distance.
“They’re very used to me training with them all summer long,” Panthers coach Jesse Patrick said. “We typically have optional practice. … And so this year I was like, ‘Hey guys, that’s not going to be the case. You’re really going to have to step up and do things on your own.’ And they have.”
Patrick hopes that initiative pays off this fall.
The boys cross country team has won the last two region titles, while the girls finished behind St. James and Socastee last year.
Patrick said he’s still trying to develop the back half of the boys team, while he said the higher number of girls running has made that group stronger.
“I’m really optimistic,” he said of the upcoming season.
This year’s roster includes seven seniors: Bri Hatfield, Kacey Miller, Alan Benitez, Kaden Buchler, Tony Mastroberti, Raymond Nassrah and Micah Sapp.
To Patrick, a Carolina Forest graduate who began coaching the team in 2017, this group is special.
“The amount of work that they have put in and are willing to put in is just unbelievable,” he said. “When I wasn’t able to coach this summer, they stepped up and took charge. … That type of student, that type of an athlete, will excel no matter what they’re doing in life. … That might be a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-decade kind of group.”