Entering his 11th season as head coach, Montezuma-Cortez cross country coach Paul Koops dedicated the first few weeks of practice to building an aerobic base.
Partially to work the Panthers’ runners back into competition shape after time off during the summer, but also to avoid injuries.
Now, following the first two weeks of practice, the Panthers will head to Monticello on Wednesday, Sept. 2 for their first meet at Lloyd’s Lake.
After losing two-time state qualifier Rachel Demby and four-year letterman Chandler Dee to graduation, the Panthers will lean on returning runners to lead the teams.
The girls team returns last year’s number two runner, sophomore Regina Schuster, and a handful of seniors in Kristine Candelaria, Rachel Zettz, Julia Damore, Judy Ha and Hannah Sanchez. Key returners for the boys team will be sophomores Sonny Boren and Reid Littlefield.
Koops also expects contributions from new transfer student Emma Thiesson, as well as a healthy group of freshmen.
“There are a couple young freshmen coming in that I hope will help us,” Koops said.
Although the Panthers aren’t quite ready to contend for a state title, Koops believes they will be competitive.
“We’ll look to develop the younger kids to become more competitive in the region.”
After the Panthers’ opening race at Lloyd’s Lake on Wednesday, they will travel to Delta for their regional preview on Friday, Sept. 4.