Members of the Halifax County High School boys cross country team include (front from the left) Ethan Martin, Trevor Riddle, Drew Salley, Trey Comer, Luke Redd and Jake Carr; (second row from the left) are Kobe Epps, Will van Opstal, James Francis, Jacob Crews, Jonathan Thornhill, Tyler Hudson and Nathan Comer; (back row from the left) are Head Coach David Riddle, Andrew Hansen, Cale Newton, Jackson Dunavant, Nicholas Harris, James Harlow, Ben Irby, Holden Francis, Hunter Powell and Coach Melanie Saunders.

This season’s Halifax County High School cross country team is young, maybe as young as it has been in the past few seasons. Still, there is experience in the Comets’ fold, primarily on the boys team and enough talent that the Comets boys team could make some noise in Piedmont District competition.

Comets Head Coach David Riddle and Assistant Coach Melanie Saunders will be anxiously watching their runners Thursday when the Comets host Bluestone High School and Park View High School of South Hill in their season-opening meet at 5 p.m. at Edmunds Park.

“There is a great deal of potential with this crowd,” Riddle said.

“We are looking forward to starting the meet season this week and looking at how things are going to shake out.

“Our youth is going to show at times this year, especially when we get into meets with a large number of runners,” added Riddle.

“Early on, it will be interesting to see how they handle that. But having a large team should help as they have to compete against a large group each and every day.”

Riddle said the Comets harriers have made a good amount of progress through the pre-season.

“Coach Saunders and I have been pleased with the progress that we have seen at the beginning of the season,” Riddle remarked.

“If you look at the names and compare it to previous seasons, we have a lot of newcomers. Plus we are younger than we have been in the past. Those elements can be challenging sometimes, but we have seen a group that seems to have the desire to succeed and has put their all into the early practices.”

In district cross country meets, each team fields seven runners. As far as the boys team goes, there is a scramble going on as runners are trying to earn those top seven spots for district meets.

“Right now, we have about 14 guys that could compete for a top-7 spot,” Riddle pointed out.

“That is a great problem to have. We have seen that on the guys side the past few seasons. We went years where you could basically tell who would be the top seven each time out, and people simply settled into their positions.

“There are no guarantees here,” added Riddle.

“This group knows they have to work for their spots, and we should be very competitive for it.”

There are a handful of experienced runners on this season’s Comets boys cross country team. Junior Tyler Hudson and senior Ben Irby are this season’s team captains.

“Both not only moved themselves into the top seven last year but are also providing solid leadership,” Riddle pointed out.

“They can be counted on for anything that we ask of them.”

Jackson Dunavant, Ethan Martin and Trevor Riddle are returnees that spent part of last season in the top seven. They are expected to challenge for the top seven spots this season as well.

Jake Carr, Andrew Hansen and Jacob Crews also return from last year’s team.

“They are building on their experience from last year and seeing tremendous improvement,” Riddle said. 

The list of newcomers to the boys team includes Nathan Comer, Kobe Epps, J.T. Francis, Holden Francis, James Harlow, Nicholas Harris, Cale Newton, Will van Opstal, Luke Redd and Drew Salley.

“They are all either with the first group of runners or, in some cases, at the top of the ladder,” said Riddle.

“Hunter Powell, Jonathan Thornhill, David Yesalavich and eighth-grader Trey Comer and learning the ropes and seeing improved times.”

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at