Boys’ cross country named Central’s team of the fall season

GEORGETOWN — Sussex Central’s football and boys’ soccer teams each posted winning records in the fall.

Neither was the high school’s “team of the season.”

Central Athletic Director Shawn Tidwell and Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield flank fall Coach of the Season Jason Stoeckel. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Central Athletic Director Shawn Tidwell and Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield flank fall Coach of the Season Jason Stoeckel. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

That honor fell to a squad that finished a win below .500 at 6-7. But it doesn’t take long to figure out why.

In the past, Central’s boys’ cross country teams have struggled. Prior to this season, none over the last eight years had won more than three meets in a season. This year’s harriers equaled that total by the end of September.

“It’s the most wins the team has accumulated in quite a few years,” said head coach Jason Stoeckel, himself named Central’s Fall Coach of the Year. “I’m really proud of our progress.”

Leading the cross country program while helping out with track teams for the last several seasons, Stoeckel has played a large role in building a base of athletes within the ranks.

More than 20 harriers ran with the team this season and only four – Trevor Beachboard, Justin Bennett, Briar Gibbs and Zakary Keeler – were seniors. Beachboard was named Central’s Boys’ Athlete of the Month for September, Keeler took home the same honors for October and also captured the team’s sportsmanship award.

“They were a strong support system for the team and I hate to see them go,” said Stoeckel, adding that while the graduating class will be missed the future for the program is bright. “The program is growing, improving, it’s all going in the right direction. We’re real excited about that.”

Just like the sport itself, this season’s Golden Knights showed that how you start isn’t necessarily indicative of where you will finish.

Central began the season with losses to Dover (20-37) and Polytech (24-32) before picking up its first win, a 21-37 victory over Delmar in a Sept. 23 tri-meet that included a narrow loss to Henlopen South champion Milford.

One week later on a rainy afternoon, the Knights would celebrate their program’s biggest victory in decades – a 22-35 win over Caesar Rodney.

“Just as we were about to start it started pouring,” Keeler said about the day of the upset. “We knew it would be close, we had some guys up near the front at the start of the woods. You have to get them before the start of the woods, because it’s pretty narrow in there. It was exciting. Fun day.”

Versus the Riders, it was underclassmen that paved the way to victory, giving credence to Stoeckel’s excitement for the program’s future. Those underclassmen finished the race first through fourth.

Sophomore Albert Norman led the pack, classmate Ben Campagnone placed second and juniors Andrew Evan and Richard Marchais rounded out the top four, respectively.

“After running for four years, it was great to see the team build from not being there to being able to compete with other teams,” Beachboard said, adding words of wisdom for future Central harriers. “A lot of people don’t realize how much work goes into cross country. You run sometimes five, six miles a day, a lot of practices.”

 

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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