It is not by accident that when the Sandhills Community College cross country teams debut at the Catawba College Chick-Fil-A Invitational on Saturday four former high school teammates will be representing the Flyer men.
Jordan Anneheim, Chance Goodman, Daniel Hagen and Jaime Torres all helped South View High School win both the Mid-South Conference and 4A East Regional titles last fall.
"Being friends had a huge impact on our deciding to come here," Anneheim said before a workout at the college earlier this week. "We decided this was the best place for us to go and be able to stay together. We already have that pack mentality in training and in races."
The men's 8K race gets underway at 9 a.m. followed by the women's 5K race at 9:45 a.m. Sandhills and Louisburg are the only junior colleges entered in the field of 18 mostly NCAA Division II teams.
At about the same time that the South View runners were wrapping up their prep cross country careers, Jeff Moody signed on to head the effort to add the sport to the athletic program at Sandhills. The Southern Pines native won three national titles as an individual, and one as a member of the 1980 Pembroke State team, before beginning a career as a teacher and high school and college coach that has spanned more than 30 years.
He anticipated there would be a wealth of interest and talent from runners in local and the surrounding counties. Nine months of recruiting has produced a roster of 14 men and 10 women with about two thirds coming from Moore County high schools.
"Actually pretty much everyone we went after we ended up getting," the coach said. "I'm thankful that they had trust in us so we plan on delivering."
Daniel Taylor, a 2016 Union Pines grad, originally planned to go to Methodist University and run before deciding that Sandhills was a better fit for him. He was recruited by athletic director Aaron Denton while attending classes at Sandhills.
"He told me we were starting a team next year," Taylor said. "It was a perfect situation. Coach Moody told me last spring that we would have a solid team and he wasn't kidding."
Karen Munoz, a product of East Montgomery High School, is one of the pioneer members of the Lady Flyers cross country program. She ran and played soccer in high school and hopes to move on to UNC-Greensboro after obtaining an associate in arts degree.
"I'm really happy to be here right now," she said. "I love running. This is new and exciting and I hope to show great leadership.
"We've been running together for about a month. We encourage each other and are always there for each other. The girls are doing awesome. I think the season is going to be great. We're ready for it."
With only a handful of junior colleges in the region offering the sport, the Flyers are entered in two more meets in September and one in October hosted by four-year colleges. Then come the Region X championship at Spartanburg Methodist and the Division III national championships which will be held in Westfield, Mass. on November 4.
Moody doesn't mind his men's and women's teams being an underdog in probably every race they run in this inaugural season. Belmont Abbey, Fayetteville State, Pfeiffer, St. Augustine and Wingate are among the teams the Flyers will compete against on Saturday.
"That's okay," the coach says. "We're going to take it to them. The beauty of it is we have nothing to lose. We're the underdog and that takes a little pressure off them. But I don't want to take a lot of pressure off them so they go out there and compete.
"We'll have a better picture of where we are after Saturday's race."
The former South View runners are accustomed to competing for individual and team titles. They've seen the national championship banners hanging at Heins Gymnasium earned by the Flyers' men's basketball and men's golf teams.
"What we're here for is national titles," Goodman says.
"We're going to create history," added Torres. "No matter what we do, good or bad, and we want to do good, we are being a part of creating something new. The whole concept of being the first cross country team at Sandhills is intriguing to me. We're the start of a legacy."
Team members by high school – Caitlin Blue, Enya Dewars, Sofia Flores, Anjel Rowe, Temaris Hailey, Patrick Cole (Pinecrest) Isiah McGilvary (Seventy First); Sarah Lindell, Izzabella McNeil, Daniel Taylor and James Thompson (Union Pines); Ivan Benjume (North Moore); Jordan Anneheim, Chance Goodman, Daniel Hagen and Jaime Torres (South View); Karen Munoz (East Montgomery); Claudette Smith (Grace Christian) Ryan Bear (Sandhills Classical Christian); Leanne Arias (West Lincoln); Andrew Bowen (Hoke County); Noah Brooks (Southern Lee); John Grimm (O'Neal).
By Charlie Bergmann.