DORSET - The beginning of Long Trail School's cross country season is right around the corner and one of the changes that coach Todd Smith has noticed this year is a slight uptick in numbers.

"We're looking at about having 10 to 12 and that would be for middle school through high school," said Smith. "We're looking at actually having a girls varsity team and a boys varsity team this year. That would mean having at least five runners."

That is a significant change from last year when Long Trail only had eight students participating in the program - five of them boys - allowing them to have only a varsity boys team.

The increase may be small, but the program also lost three runners who were on the team last year. The addition of six new runners this year and a small spike in numbers overall is something that Smith said he is pleased to see.

"I'm very happy where we are," said Smith. "Obviously I'd love to have more, but being in a school of roughly 155, 160 students competing against boys and girls middle school and upper school soccer teams, I think we have some pretty good numbers here; and these guys join and then they stay."

Although Smith said he is not sure who will be the leader of the pack among the girls team, Kit LeFevre will be the top runner on the boys side.

So far, the team has been doing half mile repeats, hill workouts, strength training, and working on form and breathing since practice began on Aug. 19. Smith said that many members of the team are in the reconditioning process, but that he expects to see steady improvement from his team throughoout the season.

"We've got good guys who keep coming out year after year. They stay in shape as best they can and they're dedicated to the proram and the idea of being able to run a long distance," said Smith.

In about a month's time, Smith said he hopes to have the team running a total of five miles in a practice and while he does not expect members of the boys team to post times of 16-17 minutes in a 5K - 3.1 miles - he believes that they will be able to finish a course in 23-24 minutes. As for the girls - most of whom are new to the team this year - Smith said he will have to become more familiar with their abilities before he can establish some goals.

When the team has their first meet at Rutland next Tuesday, Sept. 3, Smith indicated that it would be more of an extension of the team's training.

"With a lot of new people coming on board and me not knowing quite where they are in terms of their running conditioning and so forth our first meet is probably going to be just like an introductory run for a lot of them and then we'll continue building and working on speed," he said. "I'd say after about a month from now we'll be in the maintenance phase where hopefully no one will get injuries, they'll easily run more than three miles, more than the 5K, and we can start working on tactics."

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