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It’s been a long wait since Shepherd suspended its athletic programs last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every sport shut down.

Fall sports were not held. Winter sports have been limited in scope, with the men’s and women’s basketball teams being limited this year to scrimmages and exhibition games.

But there’s one athletic program at the school which has not been held for 17 years.

The men’s and women’s cross country programs were last held in 2003, but that’s all changed.

Former Martinsburg High School cross country coach Chuck Walters has begun a slow restart of the Rams’ men’s and women’s cross country programs, becoming the head coach for the new Shepherd cross country teams.

“It started out as a club sport for a few years,” Walters said. “This year, with no fall cross country, it was decided there would be just three meets over the winter months.”

Shepherd Cross Country made its official return on Saturday at Indiana, Pa. The Rams competed in the IUP Welcome Back Invitational at Spruce Run Park.

Shepherd did have a pair of athletes finish in the men’s meet. Junior Hunter Reed led the Rams, finishing 21st with a time of 18 minutes, 23.1 seconds. Sophomore Daniel Burton finished 23rd (18:29.4).

On the women’s side, Shepherd was led by junior Nicole Smith, who finished 17th in the race (23:28.2). Junior Maya Garcia finished 23rd (26:17.3) with freshman Elizabeth Rea 25th (30:11.8). Garcia ran high school cross country at Jefferson.

IUP won the men’s meet. Seton Hill won the women’s meet.

Walters said it’s a slow process bringing back collegiate cross country to Shepherd but so far, it’s been a good start. The distances at first will be 5-kilometers. Typically, collegiate cross country courses cover between 8-10 kilometers.

Shepherd doesn’t have a home course just yet, but Walters said he will design one.

Other members of Shepherd’s men’s cross country team include sophomore Michael Gregg and sophomore Stephen Rivera. For the Rams’ women, Anna Berwanger and Amelia Jenkins are sophomores.

The Rams will compete at the Shippensburg Invitational on March 6.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Shepherd opened its exhibition season with a 73-65 loss at Liberty University on Sunday. Senior forward Sydney Clayton led the Rams with a game-high 22 points.

Sophomore guard Abby Beesman had 20 points with nine rebounds and seven assists. Senior guard Marley McLaughlin had 11 points.

The Rams host Southern Virginia University in another exhibition game at 5 p.m. at Butcher Center.

BASEBALL…Shepherd was to have played games on a southern road trip at UNC-Pembroke and Francis Marion, but those games were postponed, with no makeup dates announced. The Rams are slated to officially open their season on Saturday, March 6, hosting Alderson Broaddus in a noon doubleheader.

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