FARMINGTON — After Piedra Vista won district titles for both boys and girls cross-country last season, the programs will be trying to repeat in 2015.
But it won't be an easy task for the boys. Five of the seven runners PV sent to the state meet — where the squad finished 2 points shy of the podium — graduated in the spring.
"It's pretty much going to be a new squad this year," PV head coach Sampson Sage said. "The guys who are stepping up to varsity were our top JV guys, and they were competitive and won some meets. We'll probably take our lumps early on in the season, but I'm expecting another run at the podium at state."
The two runners back from last year's varsity group are senior Ryan Krueger and junior Benjamin Vanotteson, and Sage said the experience they bring will be key in helping the younger runners adjust to the varsity level.
The PV girls only lost one runner to graduation, but Sage said a couple of girls transferred, and the Lady Panthers won't be the experience-laden group he had hoped to have in 2015. Regardless, Sage is expecting the Lady Panthers to crack the top five at the state meet, thanks to a good mix between the returners he does have and an influx of young talent joining the team.
Back for the girls are the team's top two finishers at state, junior Paris Chee and senior Cassandra Crowell.
"(Crowell) has been to state her entire high school career. She sees how everything goes and is taking it upon herself to pass on the knowledge on to the other girls," Sage said. "And the same goes for Paris."
The FHS boys and girls went through tough times in 2014 with neither qualifying for state as a team.
But the young teams are a year older and wiser, giving head coach Kevin Deswood confidence heading into the season.
"Things are looking well. I think I have eight returning runners from last year who are looking to make a push in the district," Deswood said. "I know we have the top runners in the district back again this year, and it's going to be a tough task individually, but I think as a team, we'll be strong if we can come together."
Deswood said he believes the boys team could finish first or second in the district this season with senior Lucias Martin and junior Daniel Hickman leading the way for the Scorps.
"Both are varsity returners from last year," Deswood said. "Tanin McDermott and Solomon Johnson also return with varsity experience and know what to expect."
Deswood also believes the Lady Scorps will have enough to qualify as a team for the state meet.
Helping make the push for a state appearance is the addition of McKinzey Allee, who made the switch from soccer to cross-country this season. Deswood said Allee brings good speed to the team and believes her competitiveness will help the rest of the girls rally around each other.
Returning to help lead the Lady Scorps is Melina McDermott, who was the team's top runner and lone state qualifier a year ago.
"I'm looking for Melina to improve a lot this year," Deswood said. "We should be able to match the other schools in the district runner for runner."
The Aztec boys and girls were unable to qualify for last year's state meet.
Both teams could return runners who qualified for the 2014 state meet as individuals.
Aztec head coach Steve Lanier did not return multiple phone calls to comment on his cross-country teams.