After a fabulous finish at state last year and with some of the best senior running talent in the region returning, the Hotchkiss High School cross-country team begins the season with high hopes.
"The season ended very well last year," said Bulldogs coach Kelly Cowan. "Both the boys and girls finished in fourth place at the state meet."
Hotchkiss has a long tradition of fielding talented cross-country runners, and this year will be no different. The Bulldogs will not lack senior leadership or experience.
"Mae Anderson and Sophia Schelle are senior girls who are in their fourth seasons and are both excellent leaders," Cowan said.
The boys' squad will also have a solid foundation to build upon.
"Andrew Oviedo is the lone senior boy, and he is such a strong leader," Cowan said. "So both teams have what we need in terms of ability to lead. Over half of the team this fall is new to the program, so leadership from the seniors will be extremely important."
All cross-country teams have a short number of practices before their first competition, but Cowan said things have gone smoothly so far.
"At the end of the first week, we are about where I thought we might be," Cowan said. "We definitely have a ways to go before we reach the conditioning needed to compete as we are accustomed to doing, but the kids are working hard."
The Bulldogs will have a chance to put that hard work to the test quickly. Their first race is Saturday at 10 a.m. at Crown Mountain Park-Carbondale, hosted by Basalt.
"That meet will be a good progress report for us," Cowan said. "We know that meet conditioning is a ways off, but this will let us know more about our potential."
Hotchkiss hopes that potential will build and peak at the end of the season when the Bulldogs race at regionals on Oct. 23.
This year's state race will be on Halloween in Colorado Springs.
"We will keep working with the end of the season in mind," Cowan said.