Coed Varsity Cross Country · Cross country veterans providing leadership for Powell’s first year as head coach

The Bearden Cross Country team has high hopes for this season.

The Bulldogs plan look to their upperclassmen for leadership and improve on the previous season’s success.

“We’ve got a group of six or seven guys that are pretty strong, and then the ones behind them are working hard too,” said Coach Ashley Powell, who has taken over the program after five years as the assistant coach.

“So I think we can definitely be a threat to some of the other teams.”

Coach Powell also expects big things from the girls team.

“We’ve got a lot of upcoming seniors and sophomores on the girls side,” Coach Powell said. “We’ve got a couple freshmen coming in that should contribute quite a bit.”

Coach Powell will rely on a core of upperclassmen to lead the team during meets, the first of which is the Victor Ashe Fall Classic on Saturday.

“Preston Ruth, Nathan Worley, Luke Nelson, Ben Cruze – those are all good strong returners that lift the other kids up and can definitely make an impact,” Coach Powell said.

Coach Powell also sees a lot of potential leaders on the girls team that will make a difference this upcoming season.

“We’ve got several seniors that are serving as good leaders and are bringing up those around them,” Coach Powell said.

Ruth has embraced his role as leader and has high expectations for himself and for the team.

“I want to be the senior leader and a guy that people can look up to,” Ruth said. “I want to get to state, not only as an individual but also as a team.

“I think if we really put our pieces together at the right time and guys step up we can have a good run.”

Cruze, a junior, shares Ruth’s goals for the team and gives credit to the team dynamic as a big part of the team’s success.

“Personally, my goal is to get to state,” Cruze said. “As a leader, I want to focus on maintaining the family relationship with the team and being really inclusive.”

A big part of that feeling of family in the cross country team is a product of the coaching of Coach Powell and former head coach, now assistant Coach Patty Thewes.

“Coach Powell and Coach Thewes both do a great job,” Ruth said. “And they’ve done that for the past three years of me running and have been doing that for this year.”