Jesse Autry is beginning his 21st season as cross-country coach at South View, and little has changed. His Tigers again figure to be among the top contenders for local glory in the sport.
The girls, though a little banged up to start the year, are state-ranked by NCrunners.com.
Leading the returners for the lady Tigers is Faith Roy. “You know what a gym rat is?”
Autry said. “She’s a track rat. She puts in the work. She’s easily run over 350 or 400 miles this summer. She’s very focused when she trains.’’ Autry said Roy lives by one of the mantras of the South View crosscountry program: Practice makes permanent.
“She’s got talent and work ethic,’’ Autry said.
Unlike in years past, Autry said his boys’ team doesn’t have one super-runner, like Philip Hall who’s now on the cross-country team at NC State, along with his younger sister Janay.
Autry doesn’t expect the boys to be state-ranked like the girls, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers won’t be strong again.
“We raced Apex Friendship in a two-mile race at camp and beat them headto-head,’’ Autry said. “We were surprised.’’
The Tiger boys also showed in that race that running as a pack will again be a key for South View. “Our spread at camp between No. 1 and No. 7 was 12 seconds,’’ Autry said. “It’s what gave us success.’’
The top runner in camp for South View was junior Keith Johnson. “His wall’s not decorated with plaques and medals, but I feel real good about him,’’ Autry said. “I feel real good about all of them.’’
Autry said the biggest news in the crosscountry world is that the N.C. High School Athletic Association has changed some of its regional assignments, and South View now finds itself in the same regional with the strong cross-country program of Green Hope in Wake County.
“The big question is can South View or anybody get out of the Mid-East Region to go to the state meet,’’ Autry said. “My guys have got a chip on their shoulder about that.’’
Autry said his boys remind him a lot of his 2010 team, which finished runner-up in the state 4-A meet. “They were ranked 11th going into the state meet and lost by one guy,’’ he said. “This team’s mentality is a lot like that. We’ll see how it all shakes out.’’
Regardless of state competition, Autry expects to find plenty of tough foes within the county.
“Rachel Henderson does a really good job coaching Gray’s Creek, and Terry Sanford’s girls are traditionally pretty tough,’’ he said.
On the boys’ side, Autry said Jack Britt and Pine Forest are among the traditionally strong teams, but he thinks Cape Fear may be the team to watch.
“They had a heck of a group of freshmen last year,’’ he said. “A lot of people are talking about those freshmen. I’ve got one eye peeking over at them.’’
PHOTOS: (Top to Bottom) Faith Roy & Keith Johnson