SIKESTON - The Sikeston cross country team will open its season on Sept. 6 when they run in the Jackson Invitational.
For the second year in a row it appears Sikeston will have enough runners to field a team.
Cross country rules stipulate that in order to accumulate team points, there must be at least five runners that compete.
On the downside for Sikeston, there isn't much depth and there isn't much experience.
"They're an extremely young team," said Sikeston head coach Gary Williams. "We're going to struggle until they gain more experience and get more training. It's going to a building process this year."
Sikeston's lone senior, Quinton Lamb, who qualified for state in the 400 meter dash last spring in track and field, is out with a knee injury.
"He's going to be out probably another two weeks with a knee injury," said Williams. "With Quinton out, right now we're looking to Clay Lincoln for leadership."
Lincoln, a sophomore, qualified for state in cross country last year, finishing 53rd out of 108 runners. Only one freshman finished ahead of him.
Lincoln also is an all-stater in track where he ran a 4:24 mile to finish sixth in Class 3 back in the spring.
Williams said the 4:24 mile is the fastest ever by a freshman in the state of Missouri.
"We're very hopeful that not only Clay make it to state this year, but I know his goal is to be all-state in cross country his sophomore year," said Williams.
Sikeston must find a way to replace all-state cross country runner Dale Ham, who graduated in May.
After Lamb and Lincoln, the Bulldogs have junior Stephen Henson, sophomores Trevor Ahlfield and Kevin Frederickson and freshman Jordan Roberts.
"I think there is quite a bit of potential," said Williams. "With cross country you just never know who's going to develop into a good runner. I've had athletes that came out and literally couldn't run a mile that later on became all-district and very good runners. I'm thinking they all have potential, but some of them are looking really good practice right now."
Only one girl, sophomore Traci Jackson, came out for the team this year.
But Williams is expecting the youngster, who competed in varsity track last spring, to make large strides this fall.
"Traci is a very good athlete," said Williams. "She really was a good athlete for us in track in the spring. She has a lot of speed for a cross country runner. I really see her developing into a pretty good runner as the season goes on."
Williams said he's keeping his team goals simple, considering the program is still young and on the rise.
"Last year was the first cross country team we've had in 10 years," said Williams. "It looks like we'll at least have another team in Sikeston. We're just trying to form a team, keep improving throughout the season, and post some team scores in the later meets."
Also this year will mark the first time that Sikeston will field a junior high team.
Runners that will be competing in the junior high division are Matt Rushing, Stephen Beydler, Tim Siars, Michael Brown, Justin Irvin and Brit Taylor.
Williams said the move is necessary to get Sikeston's cross country and track programs headed in the right direction.
"It's almost impossible to get the older kids, juniors and seniors, out for cross country," said Williams. "They're usually geared towards other sports. We're actually starting cross country now in the elementary schools, which has never been done until last year. We're hoping by building this program from the early grades, that we can end up having stronger teams in the future."