CHATHAM, NJ - Senior captain Alec Gironda put in 60-mile weeks over the summer months to prepare for his role as the Chatham cross-country team's lead runner in 2019.

Gironda is excited about the prospects for the Cougars this season with the likes of classmates Anthony Scerbo and Sam Viola, juniors Greg Himstreet and Finn Grosso and sophomore Jake Fortuna all returning. But it's easy to discern the rise in energy when Gironda mentions freshman Ryan Beegle.

"I'm really excited to see what freshman Ryan Beegle can do," Gironda said. "He's been doing very good in our workouts. He's very committed. Most freshmen are still playing video games and stuff. He's all in. No one wants to get beat by an underclassman and he's really pushing the whole team, which is great."

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Beegle, who rates No. 3 on the team behind Gironda and Himstreet in the early going, is a product of Chatham's youth rec program. As an eighth-grader, Beegle ran a 5:13 mile.

"I just tried running one year to get in shape for basketball and started liking it," the 14-year-old Beegle said. "I'm still going to do basketball in the winter."

Himstreet started to rise while running two-mile races in track last spring and has elevated his game to near the top of the pack.

Coach Patrick Barry said that even though 2018 might be considered an "off" year for Chatham, the Cougars still rated fifth in Morris County in a very competitive county. Barry sees more strength and depth in the 2019 squad.

"I'm excited," Gironda said. "I've really been focusing on keeping the whole team together, keeping everyone driven and to be a role model for the younger kids. We've been working hard."

Adding to the depth are senior Aidan Shimchak, junior Casey O'Reilly and sophomores Drew West, Patrick Grosso, Dennis Moynihan, Jack Tapper, Aidan Johnson and Sam Ellis.