Cross Country Teams Pick Up The Pieces After Florence

"Running is kind of important because it takes away the thought of all the stuff being destroyed" -- Jack Waldrop, Cape Fear

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Wilmington, NC--Hoggard High School hasn't had an organized cross country practice in nearly two weeks, and the Vikings can't, as their school is one of a nearly a dozen in the area that is operating as an emergency evacuation shelter. 

The shelter has been housing those displaced by Hurricane Florence since before it made landfall in this city of about 200,000 people. Many people who sought safety in the gyms and cafeterias along this stretch of the North Carolina coastline are still there, some with no place to return to after nearly 30 inches of rain coupled with wind speeds in excess of 100 mph battered the seaside town. 

Families have taken up residence inside schools like Hoggard. The New Hanover County School system, where Hoggard is located,  hasn't yet been able to say for sure when students may return. It will be at least a week, maybe more, before classes resume. 

In the meantime, cross country coaches in the area aren't allowed to have formal practice. But who knows how many athletes would come out even if they could? 

After school was cancelled on September 11 in preparation for Florence, many families evacuated the coast. People who left moved inland, and many have yet to make it back as flooded roadways have been slow to dry with inland river flooding continuing to block roads in the region. 

Even the unofficial captains practices that have began this week for schools like Hoggard, Ashley, Laney, Cape Fear Academy and New Hanover High School have not been well attended.

That means teams in Wilmington, New Bern, Jacksonville and Myrtle Beach haven't had an official practice since September 10th, either. 

Cross country, rightfully, takes a back burner during a natural disaster, but as New Hanover High School coach Josh Adams said, it might be just what the kids need. 

"I think our kids, our athletes need running now more than ever; to get them back into a routine and give them some kind of normalcy," he said. 

His top athlete, junior Natalie Atento, has had a difficult time getting back to running after a wild week riding out the storm in her Wilmington home. 

"We ended up being boarded up for three days without power," Atento said. "There was no way I was able to run, and being without running for a while is strange, I basically forgot it was cross country season."

Ashley High School junior Luke Scacheri, fresh off of a win in his last race at The Wilmington Beach Blast, says he's been doing what he can to keep his team together. He's started holding captains practices but attendance has been lacking.

"It's not been very high," Scacheri said. "We have had about 10 people coming out and usually we have 40 or 50."

"I haven't seen my team in two weeks," Cape Fear Academy sophomore Jack Waldrop said, "we are a pretty close team and we run better when we are all together. Running is kind of important because it takes away the thought of all the stuff being destroyed." 

Waldrop says he feels like his team is been moving in the right direction. 

In spite of the fact that while other teams across the state are still training--teams he will face at the state championship--this storm may actually bring his team together. 

"Our team is strong enough to get through it and push on. And I feel like our team is close enough for all of us to ride together and get over this obstacle."

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For more information on the fallout from Hurricane Florence, follow Hackman, a meteorologist for WECT in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Twitter @colinhackman. You can also follow his timing company, It's Go Time, and Instagram page @gotimerun.