Last year, the program saw record numbers with somewhere between 10 to 12 students in high school and middle school. Coming into this season, coach Todd Smith said he has 12 athletes on the roster.
"In terms of shear numbers, this is the largest amount of athletes that we've had here at Long Trail running for cross country," said Smith in an interview last week. "We just had our first day of school and that's when we started high school practices and I was expecting to see my regular six, seven athletes out here and I saw 13 and I was just jumping for joy inside."
The difference from last season though is that several of them - about six or seven - are in middle school.
"We're definitely in a buidling phase and we have a lot of middle school participants. From what I've seen a lot of them are able to run 5Ks (3.1 miles) easily," Smith said. "So, for them it's going to be a matter of working on speed; learning more of the mechanics behind running a cross country race." For the varsity, Smith has two boys returning and one new student, which gives the Lynx just enough to form a team.
"The new student just joined us, Sam McVicker, and he looks very promising. That would give us al least three students so we could at least score on a regional level meet. So, that would be the Marble Valley League the C Division," said Smith. "We can score three varsity boys. So, as long as Sam continues, like I said he looks pretty promising.
Typically five runners are needed in order for a team to record an official score, but that requirement is lowered in Division C because the schools are smaller making it harder to get runners to participate.
Another change from last year is that there will not be a varsity girls team as Smith said there is only one runner - Bailey O'Donnell - coming out for the team. He said there are a couple of others who are interested in competing, but they are trying out for a play in the school's theatre production program this fall, which will prevent them from participating in cross country.
Coming into this season, Smith said that varsity boys team looks like they are in good condition.
"They started ahead of time. They were dedicated. They knew they were coming back to me this year and I was really proud to have them come back. So, they started early," said Smith. "We've been putting in the mileage each week and so now they can pretty much take continued practice as they should and it actually gives me a chance to work with the new middle school students."
Looking ahead to the future, Smith said that next year he hopes to have a varsity boys team and middle school girls team and two years or so from now to have a varsity girls team given the number of middle school athletes he has now. What's more, Smith said he is encouraged by what he has seen out of the middle school runners.
"I think it would be amazing if I could retain the middle school students that I have this year. Some of them like I said are able to run a 5K. They're very involved in running," Smith said. "I haven't had a chance to connect with the families, but it seems like they come from running families so I think the enthusiasm to stick with the program is going to be there and what that really allows me to do is like I said have a cohesive unit; they're going to stick together for a number of years and just move up [to] the varsity level."