Label head: CROSS COUNTRY
PITTSBORO — One year after winning the 2A cross country state championship, Seaforth rising junior Jack Anstrom has his sights set even higher this upcoming season.
How so? Simple. While he has already had plenty of individual success, Anstrom wants to help Seaforth win the school’s first ever team state title. At last year’s state championship meet, the Hawks placed fourth overall as a team, anchored by Anstrom’s first-place finish and bolstered by solid races from Will Cuicchi (31st), Gabe Rogers (32nd) and Henry McFall (36th).
With a solid foundation already built, Anstrom feels like the Hawks are ready to reach that next level.
“I've got every bit of confidence that I can go and win (a state title) again,” Anstrom said. “But we really want the team title more than anything … We’re really focusing on transitioning to being a bigger team and helping guide more people in the right direction when it comes to being part of the team and learning what it's like to go compete for state championships as a team and to go race in major races."
The Seaforth boys team brings back almost every member of last year’s team, aside from Rogers, who decided to focus on wrestling full time. The rest of the roster has plenty of pedigree, however.
At the 2A indoor track and field state championships in February, Cuicchi won a state title in the 1,000-meter race. He followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the 800-meter race at the 2A outdoor championships and helped the Hawks’ 4x800 team earn a podium spot with a third-place finish.
Anstrom and Cuicchi, along with rising senior Drew Parker, were recently named captains for the Seaforth’s boys team for the 2023 season. Parker finished 67th at last year’s 2A championship meet with a time of 18:46.24.
Now heading into their third season as a program, the Hawks have built a strong bond. Anstrom highlighted the team’s chemistry as an important factor to their success entering the fall.
"We've gotten to know each other a couple years ago, and we've all kind of bonded over that collective struggle,” Anstrom said. “I know Will and Henry and Drew, we're all really looking to push forward and start a winning culture at Seaforth."
For his part, Anstrom knows he’ll have to defend his title as 2A champion for the Hawks to have a solid chance at winning the team title. And he should be the favorite to win the race after a stellar sophomore season on the course and the track.
Anstrom’s time of 16:15.43 was more than two seconds faster than the second-place finisher in 2A — N.C. Science & Math senior Andrew Parker. Parker and Charles D. Owens senior Elijah Jones were the only two people within 10 seconds of Anstrom, while Surry Central rising senior Ignacio Morales finished in fourth with a time of 16:44.45.
He carried that momentum throughout the year and finished his sophomore campaign by placing second in the 1,600-meter race at the 2A outdoor track and field championships in May. He also performed well in bigger showcase races, like when he ran the two-mile race at the New Balance Indoor Championships in 9:16.38 and was the third sophomore to finish the race out of dozens of high school athletes across the country.
Now, Anstrom is spending the summer months working on his endurance. He says that is the most important part of the summer, while he and the rest of the team will wait until the start of the season to start pushing themselves too seriously from a speed perspective.
"Summer is all about building the base mileage,” Anstrom said. “It's never about getting on the track and doing the speed stuff. We're just getting out in the summer to get strong and have fun more so than anything. It's generally more relaxed and laid back, and then once you get into the season, that's when you focus on getting fast."
Seaforth’s first meet of the 2023 season will be the Ronald Horton XC Classic on Saturday, Aug. 26 at Northwood. On the girls side, the Hawks bring back every member of their 2022 roster. The team’s top finisher at last year’s state championship meet was freshman Caidence Bazemore, who came in 48th place with a time of 23:02.45.