The Greyhounds enter the year as one of the top contenders for the Class AAAAA state title, returning nearly all of their key runners from last year’s team.
With her runners ready to go after a strong offseason of training, Pope coach Christine Dahlhauser is looking forward to the fall season.
“The boys have been training all summer,” Dahlhauser said. “Everyone is in great shape after training hard all summer. The boys are really strong and they’re ready to have a successful season.”
Pope’s chances of claiming a spot on the awards podium at last year’s state meet with a top-four finish took a hit with the loss of top runner Patrick Fleming, who missed the last several weeks of the season — including the Region 5AAAA and state meets — with a broken foot.
But Fleming is back, and the senior, who’s time of 15 minutes, 18 seconds was the fastest of all Cobb County runners last year, is a strong contender for the individual state title in AAAAA.
“We’re very excited to have Patrick back,” said Dahlhauser of Fleming, who won the Class AAAA state title in the 1,600-meter during track season in the spring. “Without Patrick, we just missed making the podium (at the state meet). He came back from his injury and won the state title in the 1,600. He is our top runner and he is an important part of our team.”
Pope did lose its No. 2 runner, Justin Howell, who finished third at the region meet and was the Greyhounds’ top finisher at the state meet with a 30th-place showing.
Fleming leads a strong veteran group that includes fellow seniors Kyle Rose, Gunnar Stormack and junior Carlos Quintana. Rose was an eighth-place finisher at the Region 5AAAA meet last year, with Quintana coming in at 10th.
“This is a very cohesive team,” Dahlhauser said. “They support each other and they push each other to get better. They’re a good bunch.”
With freshman Jacob Greer and sophomore Jarrod Howell joining the veteran nucleus, and a number of other runners vying for top-seven spots in the lineup, depth will be a strength for the Greyhounds.
“We have 10 guys who could be in the top seven,” Dahlhauser said. “We have a very deep roster.”
Pope is expected to be among the top contenders at the county meet, and the favorite in its new region. And, with a healthy Fleming, the Greyhounds could also be in the hunt for their first state title since 1999.
“We have a strong group of runners and we have the potential to contend at state,” Dahlhauser said. “We should have a very successful season.”