The Hotchkiss High School cross country team is going to look a little different this year.
The Bulldogs girls team lost career standouts Mae Anderson and Sophia Schelle to graduation. The pair was part of a squad that finished second at the state tournament two years in a row.
Sophomore Kaiya Firor returns to run for the Hotchkiss girls. She finished 15th overall last year at state. She will be joined by a Cedaredge athlete, Hannah Hathaway.
And that's it for the girls.
"We have seven kids total on the team," Bulldogs senior Zack Allen said. "We're really small."
The boys team returns Allen and standouts Gabe Rodriguez and Sam Rodriguez. The three were part of a Bulldogs squad that just missed qualifying for state last year.
"Last year we had kind of a heartbreak season," Allen said. "We were right on the edge of going to state and we didn't quite make it. Our goals are to make it to state this year."
Practice has gone well for the Bulldogs, who may be small in quantity but are large in quality. The boys team was bolstered by the addition of freshmen Nick Jung and JD Miller.
"It's been good. It's been challenging of course but everyone's doing right about where they should be," Allen said.
Hotchkiss opened the season last week in Basalt.
"Everybody dropped time from what they ran there last season at this time. We're making good improvement," Allen said. The drops were 25 seconds, 19 seconds and 13 seconds. Then Nick dropped seven minutes off what he did before. It's going to be fun this year. It was a good way to start the season."
Allen is a three-sport senior who enjoys the grueling runs in cross country.
"I do it mostly to stay in shape for basketball but I do enjoy it," Allen said. "You're out there just running and you get to think about everything."
Local fans can watch Hotchkiss run on Friday, when the Bulldogs are scheduled to run at the meet at Confluence Park at 10 a.m.
Paonia opened the cross country season at Basalt last Saturday as well. The Eagles return girls standout Brooke Hillman. The junior made state last year and returns to lead the Eagles.
Paonia is scheduled to run on Saturday at the Battle Mountain Meet in Beaver Creek.