By Josh Bronson
Pilot staff writer
Making it to the state cross country meet is not a simple task.
Only the top two teams in each league advance.
Last year, both the Brookings-Harbor High School boys' and girls' teams took third place in the Far West League, narrowly missing the chance to compete at the state meet.
"Our goal this year is to get both teams to state," Coach Terry Axel said. "We have the talent and we really could do it."
The Bruins are returning all their athletes from last year except 2007 graduate Tonja Hargrove.
"We not only have the numbers, but some talent, too," Axel said. "Our goals aren't that far-fetched."
On the girl's side, the Bruins will have to battle with defending State Champion Siuslaw, as well as the always tough North Bend runners.
"We've got our work cut out for us," Axel said. "But with the girls' turnout and their work attitude right now, it could be doable."
The girls will be led by senior Amy Axel, who was the lone girl to make it to last year's state cross country meet.
Other than the top two teams at the district meet, the next four individual runners also advance to the state meet.
Coach Axel has never taken an entire girls' team to the state championships, but with the team's experience and the addition of a few new, talented runners, the Bruins will be looking to make a run at the district title.
"It'll be fun," Axel said. "We might upset some people."
Axel will be joined by fellow seniors Andi Gutierrez and Marianne Neighbor, who came in as the number two and three runners at last year's district meet.
Gutierrez missed several meets last year due to injury and hopes to stay healthy this year.
Neighbor, along with the majority of the girls' team, has been working out this summer and will soon start doing daily doubles, which includes running before school in addition to their regular practice.
Junior Krista Watterson and sophomores Lisa Bernhard and Samantha Hinze will also look to improve their times from last year.
A number of new faces will also help the fill in the gaps this year, led by freshman Ally Manley.
For the boys, all six top runners from last year's team will be returning to make a run at defending State Champion North Bend, who is also bringing back all of their athletes.
"It's a tough league," Axel said. "But we have a real solid six back and it should be an exciting year."
The Bruins will be led by senior Steven Sanders, who took fourth place at last year's district meet and 31st place in the state meet.
Sanders led the Bruins in all but two meets last year, which included a first place finish at the Brookings-Harbor Invitational.
Senior Willie Bennett and junior Linden Loren were the other two Bruins who competed in the state meet last season.
Loren took ninth place at the district meet and 54th at state while Bennett took 12th at districts and 74th at state.
Senior Alec Rosenthal missed qualifying for the state meet by a mere two seconds as he came in right behind Bennett in 13th place.
Senior Chris Neighbor and junior Kevin Sthen took 16th and 17th at last year's district meet and will look to better their times this year.
The boys' team will also get help from senior Tim Hunter and freshman Gage Northrup.
The first meet of the year for the Bruins will be the Ben Creek Invitational at Gold Beach on Saturday, Sept. 8. The girls' race begins at noon with the boys' race to follow.