With 27 athletes lacing up their running shoes and cross country being a sport where higher numbers could lead to greater success, Head Coach Terry Axel is excited about his team's prospects of going to the state championships this year.

"I'm really excited about my core group this year," he said. "The boys are pushing each other to faster times and they have a good chance at taking second at districts to make it to state."

With the defending state champions Siuslaw High School in the league and 5A Marshfield dropping down to the Far West League, Axel is cautiously optimistic.

"It's definitely going to be an uphill battle," he said. "But we've got some great competitions right out of the gate and I'm excited about the season."

Both teams are young in terms of numbers of seniors with just three total out for the sport - the girls team has Mikaela Lea and Mallory Darger leading the way while Stephen Pettinger is the lone senior on the boys team.

"Our team is really dedicated this year and we have a big team," Lea said. "I think it will be easy to have more competition within the team and that will make us better."

Darger agreed.

"We have a lot of natural ability on the team this year," she said. "Our team looks really promising and should be really good by the time they're seniors."

Some members of the team spent a portion of the summer at a high altitude running camp which, according to one of the boys' team captains Cody Enos, brought the team closer together.

"A lot of people got closer together at camp. A lot of friendships were made and that really helps the team," Enos said. "Everyone worked hard and showed how dedicated they are."

The team will run its first meet of the year this Saturday when they travel to Eureka for the Beat the Heat Invitational and host the Brookings Invitational at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14.