MANCHESTER - A little less than a week before the start of this year's cross country season, coaches Sandy Birch and Heidi Welch have lofty aspirations for this year's team.

"Our motto this year is journeying toward the banner," said Birch. "Why not go for states and it's all about the journey towards it that's going to be the most rewarding; pushing ourselves to the limit."

Not only do Birch and Welch believe that the team can perform well this year, but they also have high expectations for their two top runners - Lauren Miskovsky and Thomas Kittross.

"I think Lauren and Thomas have a real shot at doing something phenomenal at the states," said Birch.

Miskovsky replaces Abby Lord - who graduated last year - as the top runner on the girls team while Kittross is reprising the role in this his senior season.

While Miskovsky is expected to be the girls leading runner, seniors Abigail Stalcup and Amanda Mulroy - who is new to the team this year - are also expected to be significant contributors.

On the boys side, senior Simon Aborn and juniors Eric Owen, Sam Silsby and Ike Pritchard will help anchor this year's team.

Currently there are 34 students signed up and International students and transfer students have yet to arrive. By the time the season opens, Birch said that she expects the team will have about 40 runners.

Although there are that many, Birch said the majority of the varsity spots will be filled by those students who trained hard over the summer. Of the 34 runners that the team currently has, there are about 17 that are in really good shape coming into the season.

"Half of them you know definitely you can tell trained over the summer, were prepared, continued and some kind of came in and are starting fresh," said Welch.

Each June Birch sends out a conditioning schedule to their runners and she and Welch check in with them throughout the summer. Ultimately, Birch said the goal is to have the students show up in good condition.

"We're committed to getting kids to understand coming into the season having run all summer is the only way to do it," said Birch.

Although some kids might be in the process of reconditioning, there are seven kids from the team this year that plan to participate in the Maple Leaf Half Marathon - something that Birch said she only sees as a positive.

"We have a bunch of new kids who are doing it and it's great training coming into the season," she said.

Going into the half marathon, Birch said that she is not worried about her runners getting injured because she knows they have done the necessary training to complete the course.

Birch said she and Welch are also encouraging runners to participate in the Komen Race for the Cure. She and Welch have a connection to a person who has struggled with breast cancer and because of that, she has created a team that will participate in the race on Sept. 21 called BBA Cross Country. So far, the team has raised $13,000 in one week.

BBA opens up their season on Tuesday, Sept. 3 against Rutland and their home meet is scheduled for Oct. 8.

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