While the DIAA cross country championship marked the end of the season, it may be the beginning of a bright future for the Milford Buccaneers.
Both teams, infused with young talent, showed what they’re capable of throughout the season with a nod to greater things ahead.
The Lady Bucs finished their season taking the Henlopen South Division championship, placing sixth in the Henlopen Conference championship and ninth in the Division II cross country championships.
Meanwhile, the boys wrapped up their season with a ninth place finish in the conference championships and an 11th place finishing at the DII finals.
Cross country is a team sport, but with the emphasis on time, success isn’t always valued by wins and losses.
“I think success is ultimately measured by combined individual improvement throughout the course of the season,” said Milford head coach Bob Spath. “We had vast improvement in times throughout the season so, in that respect, yes, both teams were successful.”
The girls, led by a core group of freshman runners, turned heads all season long, taking the division championship while continuing to improve during the postseason meets.
First year runners Alex Herber, Paige Thompson, Haley Thompson, Kassidy Willey, Sophia Sobota and Anna Hatfield helped lead the way during the regular season, and all posted top 50 finishes in the conference championships.
Herber led the way at the Henlopen Conference championships, finishing just outside the top 10 with an 11th place. Herber was followed by Paige and Haley Thompson who finished 24th an 25th respectively. Willey took 35th with Sobota not too far behind at 40th, while Hatfield was three spots back at 43rd place.
In the JV race, Reina Fogel was the standout, taking 23rd overall.
The Lady Bucs rode the momentum from conferences into the Division II DIAA cross country state contest.
Milford’s freshman crew all finished within the top 100 at the DII states, with Herber the team’s high finisher at 28th place.
Sobota, along with Paige and Haley Thompson, took on the course together; Sobota took 62nd , followed by Paige Thompson at 63rd and Haley Thompson at 66th. Hatfield finished in 88th place.
A group of young runners also impressed on the boys side.
Sophomores Conor Sylvester and Dale Ostermann and junior Moses Martinez led the way in the Henlopen Conference finals. Sylvester was the top finisher at 33rd, followed by Martinez at 43rd and Ostermann at 48th.
Matt Stangl, Tristan Steveson, Gregory Auguste and Angelo Constantino all finished just outside the top 50; Stangl 51st, Stevenson 55th, with Auguste five spots behind in 60 th ; Constantino finished 61st.
In the Division II championships, six runners placed in the top 100. Sylvester was top finisher again at states, taking 54th place.
After a 19th place finish in the JV conference championships, sophomore James Stangl turned heads with a 68th place in the DII final. Martinez (72nd), Ostermann (78th), Matt Stangl (85th) and Auguste (89th) also had a good day.
With an obvious influx of young talent that burst onto the scene, Spath is feeling good.
“The youth on the team gives good reason to be optimistic as the program moves forward,”Spath said. “The younger athletes on the team learned a lot about training, competing and encouraging one another on the difficult days. Our younger runners have gone through an entire season now, so they’re now considered veterans and leaders.”