Good luck attempting to stay up with Hernando’s Stalcup

Ross Stalcup                                                                                                                                                  Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO


Fourth-year Leopard

distance thinclad repeats

as Runner of the Year


Despite the lack of a supporting cast of previous cross country seasons, Hernando High senior Ross Dean Stalcup repeated as Hernando County’s 2018 Runner of the Year.

Ross Stalcup

The 5-foot-11, 145-pounder turned his fourth prep season along the winding 3.1-mile area courses into his own trail.

So much so that area coaches voted him to his third consecutive All-Hernando County team and voted him a repeat selection as Runner of the Year.

Looking back

In 2018, Stalcup competed in eight meets and paced the Leopards to the finish line in all but one race.

The season was highlighted by a personal record five Top 10 finishes: at the Zak Lukas Invitational (third), Crystal River Invite (fourth), the 15th Hernando/Citrus Distance Classic (fourth) and the 2A-7 Meet (third) at Brooksville’s McKethan Lake and 2A-II Meet at Hernando Beach’s Weeki Wachee Preserve (eighth).

The blonde-tressed and blue-eyed distance runner sliced almost 17 seconds off his previous best during regionals blazing a 3.1-mile time of 16:56.62.

That time stood out for several reasons.

First and foremost, it served as the county’s fastest clocking – male or female – in 2018.

It marked just the 11th time – since 5K racing was initiated in 2002 – that any Leopard runner posted a sub-17-minute effort.

Most importantly, that top-15 finish permitted Ross to advance to the state’s ultimate test – the FHSAA State Finals at Leon County’s Apalachee State Park.

HHS’ Ross Stalcup battles Gulf’s John Jessup to the finish line.. Photo by JOE DICRISTOFALO

Ross closed his final campaign placing 73rd overall in the Class 2A Finals in 17:26.61. It marked his best-ever finish at states in his third ever performance in the elite meet.

Why did that meet stand out? Ross was Hernando County’s lone competitor.

After four seasons, Ross finished with 34 5K meets under belt, highlighted by 12 top-10 placings.

He finished as the 11th-fastest HHS runner in school history.

Heaping praise

Area mentors lauded his body of work

David Wilson

“Ross is just a quiet guy; he’s not a social butterfly … He trains hard and during the season, he goes harder,” described Hernando High skipper David Wilson, who did not finish due to personal health issues.

“Regular season is made up glorified practices leading up to the post season … Ross understood that’s when he had to perform,” stressed Weeki Wachee mentor Patrick Skipper.

“…States is where everybody wants to be and he was the only guy from the county to make it That says a lot about his ability… He finished on a great note … He did a great job.“

Eric Milholland

“He’s an impressive kid … Had a couple of down races,” shared NCT’s veteran skipper Eric Milholland. “I don’t know him personally, but to be the only runner from Hernando County to make it to states is impressive.”

“Ross posted the fastest time this season,” shared Central’s Kris Brooks. “It’s that simple.”

On repeating as ROY, “Oh, I had competition,” expressed the 18-year-old Stalcup. “I finally beat that Springstead kid (Rayaan Kader) at the Spingstead Invitational (during track season) … The expectations on me were very high, so I knew I had be competitive.

“To me, the most important time of the year was to be competitive during the state series – that’s what gets you to states. Personally, I thought I did that.”

MEET THE CHAMPS! – Hernando High captured the 2015 Class 2A, District 7 Boys Cross Country Championship at the Weeki Wachee Preserve in Hernando Beach. Members of the team include (front) Trevor Foley. Back row (left to right): Ross Stalcup, Ryan Bell, Charles Steinkamp, Head Coach David Wilson, Seth Wilson Wesley Wilso and Tyler Pantley. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Ross’s athletic legacy began just after the Stalcup family relocated from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Brooksville.

Ross was born in Washington, DC, as the oldest of three children to Richard and Leslie Stalcup.

His father was a football player and his mom was a good student and graduate of HHS, pointed out Ross.

His initial taste of organized sports was playing locally for I-9 football as a center at 9 years old.

He got the running itch during sixth grade physical education class, running the 1,600 meters.

The Challenger K-8 Navigators boys track and field team made it back-to-back seasons claiming the Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference championship WEdnesday at Brooksville’s Shark Tank Stadium. Members of the team hoist the winning trophy, featuring first row Left to right): Tyler Greer, Clark Day, and Colton Black. Back row: Ross Stalcup, Jesus Torres, Saben Reiter Hunter Reid and Ryan Pfeiffer. Photo by TONY CASTRO

During his seventh-grade year with the Challenger Navigators, he played football. A year later he played outside linebacker.

In track, he finished third in the 1,600 meters and fifth in the open 400 meters.

As an eighth-grader, he recalls earning three medals in the year-end Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference meet, placing second in 1,600 – to Trevor Foley – and winning the 800 meters and being a part of the championship 4×400 relay.

Since matriculating to the Bell Avenue campus at HHS, Stalcup has participated in four seasons of cross country and track and field.

Ross Stalcup                   Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Though he has been named All-County in cross country (three times) and track (mile and 4×400 relay in 2017), Stalcup is also an outstanding student-athlete.

He’s a two-year member of the prestigious National Honor Society, been a member of the Beta Club and served in HHS’ PIT crew (peer inclusion team).

He maintains a 3.75 unweighted and a 4.1 weighted GPA.

His favorite courses include English Composition, US History and Psychology

He plans on attending college on a Bright Futures Scholarship. He’s undecided on whether to study history, political science or sports management.

To fulfill his community service hours, he’s volunteered during the Brooksville Christmas Parade the past two years.

On what was the genesis of him running, “When I started running in sixth grade, the first time I ran the mile was 7:20, which was pretty fast. The more I kept doing it, the more my overall time would drop.

“After doing so well in PE, I thought I’d just try track and see how I’d so. I felt pretty good doing it all the way through my eighth-grade year.”

“… When I got to Hernando, Trevor (Foley) got me into cross country,” revealed Stalcup. “It was crazy. I didn’t know what to do in the beginning. Everything was so new to me. The most I had ever run before Hernando High was two miles.”

Stalcup describes himself as a track athlete, who runs cross country.

“It’s weird that I like it,“ he smiled. “The courses in cross country dictate how fast you run. Track is pretty straight forward. I think I enjoy running on flat surfaces better.”

2A-7 MEDALISTS – Weeki Wachee’s Jaiden and Yeatesh Raghunadan flanks Henando High’s senior Ross Stalcup joining NCT’s entire team as regional qualifiers next week at the Weeki Wachee Preserve. Photo by TONY CASTRO

In rewinding his 2018 season, “This year, I felt like I was inconsistent,” described Stalcup. “I wasn’t finishing my workouts. It would show up on Saturdays. It seemed like a bit of a learning process.”

His low ebb arrived during the Weeki Wachee Invitational, when he didn’t finish the race.

“I remember I was discouraged. I was not mentally into that race,” he recalled. “When you’re not consistent, this is what could happens.”

Stalcup credits his increased mental toughness for him finishing with a flourish.

“As the season progressed, I was more consistent with my workouts. I remember all things that Trevor (Foley) told me to do the years before. Building consistency starts in practice.”

Part of that process, according to Stalcup, was a following a steep learning curve. That included focusing harder on longer runs and going easier on easy days.

“Demonstrating more self discipline has really helped me progress,” added Stalcup.

Looking ahead

Though running is Stalcup’s backbone, his continued academic performance is critical.

“My academics are very important to me,” he said. “My grades will be the basis of a better career.”

Prior to commencement exercises at HHS, “I’d liked to be remembered as a good guy that helped people out,” shared Stalcup.

By the Numbers:

Hernando’s Ross Stalcup (2018)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Ross Stalcup                                                                                                          Photo by TONY CASTRO









@ Lecanto Invitational




@ Zak Lukas Invitational




@ NCT Invitational




@ Crystal River Invitational




@ 5th Weeki Wachee Invitational



@ 15th Hernando/Citrus Distance Classic




@ 2A-7 Meet @ McKethan Lake




@ 2A-II @ Weeki Wachee Preserve




@ 2A State Finals @ Tallahassee’s Apalachee State Park



By the Numbers:

Hernando’s Ross Stalcup (2017)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Ross Stalcup









@ Mitchell Invitational




@ 4th Weeki Wachee Invitational




@ NCT Invitational




Apopka Invitational




@ 14th Hernando/Citrus Distance Classic




@ 2A-7 Meet @ Weeki Wachee Preserve




@ 2A-II @ Port Orange-Atlantic





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