Lely cross country squads will have more youthful look in 2017

Ryenn Hart, who was one of the area's top runners as a freshman last year, returns to lead the Lely cross country team as a sophomore this season.

The Lely cross country team may be in a rebuilding year, but that won’t stop them from being competitive.

The Trojans lost top runners on both the boys and girls squads, with leaders like Josh Wagner, Cody Demalavez and Rosie Poling all graduating.

“It’s definitely a rebuilding year, but we’ve got some young kids that have the potential to step up,” Lely coach Mark McGarity said. “They’ve got the ability to run well and finish in the top half of the race. That’ll be a good start and we’ll take it from there.”

Prep cross country: Lely's Josh Wagner 12th; Naples boys, girls in top 10 at state meett

Lely still has a few key veterans it can rely on while the youngsters are gaining experience. On the girls side, sophomore Ryenn Hart will lead the way. Hart challenged Poling as the Trojans’ top runner as a freshman last year, finishing second in the district, seventh in the region and 16th in the state meet. Also returning are senior twin sisters Sara and Ryann Leaman and fellow senior Ella Kerchner.

The experienced runners will be complemented by a pair of youngsters – sophomore Sara Nemeth and freshman Ellie Poling, Rosie’s sister.

“All of our girls, Ryenn included, are trying to work on building from the beginning of the race on out,” McGarity said. “Pushing harder from the beginning and being able to maintain throughout the race.”

On the boys side, Lely will rely on a trio of juniors – Anthony Alvarez, Mickey Poling and Jose Lopez. Sophomores Gerardo Martinez and Quentin Warren are also expected to make key contributions, and the Trojans will have several soccer players coming out for the team this year.

“Numbers wise, we’re going to be pretty good on both the boys and girls teams,” McGarity said. “We may not have the senior runners we had last year on the boys team, but we’ve got a lot of guys who are eager to fill in those spaces and provide leadership and do whatever it takes to help the team get better.”

Lely opens its season next Saturday with a meet at Lemon Bay.

“Right now, all we’re doing is hopefully developing that ability to maintain our pace throughout the race,” McGarity said. “Early on, we just want to see the kids keep improving. We’re not worried about the times per se, just seeing where we can go and what we can do to get better every week. If they can get a little better every time they run, we’ll be fine.”