SHERRARD — Their lineups largely intact from last fall, both the girls' and boys' cross country teams at Sherrard are looking to make big strides this year.
Coming off a third-place showing at the 2018 Three Rivers Conference Meet and a trip to the Class 1A sectionals, the Tiger girls seek to fill the holes in their lineup left by the graduation of standouts Lexi Shields and Joelle Gaullaugher.
"We lost two key scorers, but (sophomore) Addison Knox, (senior) Jasmine Mathis and (junior) Isabella Pappas are all solid runners for us," said Sherrard coach Ryan Buchanan of his top returners.
Knox and Pappas were both top 20 finishers at conference.
Led by that trio, Buchanan feels his girls' squad can push reigning TRAC champion Orion for this year's conference title.
"It's always fun to compete with Orion, just because we are so close; we see them in a lot of meets," he said. "I think the conference can be pretty wide-open this year."
That feeling is perhaps stronger with the Tiger boys, who recently took second to Geneseo at Annawan-Wethersfield's Titan Invitational behind a third-place individual effort from junior Jacob Belha. In that event, junior classmate Dayton Hauger placed ninth.
"We were so young last year; our highest scorer at the TRAC meet was a sophomore," Buchanan said of Belha, who placed 12th. "They've hopefully got the experience. Right now, we've got a lot more kids running in groups, which is what I like to see. Strength in numbers."
With sophomore Dylan Russell also coming off a top 20 conference showing last fall, Sherrard has the potential to make great strides from last year, when it took fifth at the TRAC Meet and missed sectionals by one spot.
"Sometimes defeat can be a good thing; it makes you work harder," said Buchanan. "This team is so tight. They're hungry for the next level."