DALLAS -- Returning veterans such as Clay Stuhr and Alex Bird, both of whom were top-20 finishers in last year's Mid-Willamette Conference cross country meet, give Dallas reason to be optimistic entering its 2010 campaign.
"From what I've seen of the summer workouts the kids have been doing, we have several kids who show tremendous promise," Dallas coach Monique Lankheet said. "Clay Stuhr and Alex Bird both have been working very hard. They're running faster than they were at this time last year. They've both set some big goals for themselves.
"We have some new kids coming in. We have some girls who are going to be great."
Bird finished 16th for Dallas in the 2009 MWC meet with a time of 17 minutes, 17.49 seconds. Eight of the 15 runners who finished ahead of him were seniors who have since graduated.
Stuhr finished 18th in the league meet with a clocking of 17:21.75.
"I don't know how they rank in the league," Lankheet said. "Clay ran an 18:03 the other day and is hoping to be in the 16s by district. I don't know what the rest of the league is doing. There were a lot of kids who graduated. I think we can show well with the caliber of kids that we have."
Expected leaders for the girls team include sophomores Mary Kate McGuire and Bethany Steele and senior Desi Heimgartner. Britt Schei, an exchange student from Norway, also is expected to help.
McGuire was a standout on the track team last year as a freshman. She is going to attempt a rare double this fall, playing both soccer and running cross country.
"We know it can be done and done very successfully," Lankheet said. "We're going to give it a try and hope it works out that way."
Dallas boys and girls finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in last year's conference meet. Both should improve on that this season, Lankheet said. There even has been talk the boys might qualify for state for the first time in who-knows-how-long?
"We have the potential to do really well," Lankheet said. "We'll see how it all comes together. We're still early in the mix. We're going to have a big team. We have a lot of new kids. We'll see how they all develop. New kids can progress so quickly. You never know who's going to be doing well at the end of the season. The kids seem to be having fun and are motivated. I'm excited about working with them."