The Neosho Wildcats' cross country program, under head coach Emily Abell and assistant Daiwa Emmert, looks to continue its move toward returning the program to first respectability and then success.
In fact, that's among the Wildcats' stated team goals.
"Move up in the conference standings on the boys side," Abell said. "Build the program even more."
On the boys side last season, Neosho finished eighth in the Central Ozark Conference Large and the girls did not have enough runners to point in the conference standings.
The Wildcats return junior Cooper Hayes, junior Nate Wimpey, and senior Oliver Bopp on the boys side and junior Destiny Colston on the girls this season.
Abell and Emmert have seen a flurry of newcomers, though, for the 2018 season and that always lifts the spirits.
"We have more depth on the boys side than we have had in a few years," Abell said. "There are several boys out who can run and that is something I am very excited about this season.
"We had a steady group of boys who put in the time and effort this summer to prepare for the upcoming season. We put in a lot of miles in order to build our foundation."
Newcomers this season are freshmen Kaden Cole, Lane Yost, and Bryce Hall and senior Kyle Wood on the boys side and senior Madison Flynn and sophomore Jayden Browning for the girls.
"Kaden Cole will be one to watch this season," Abell said. "He is coming in strong and proving his abilities during workouts."
Abell identified the keys to making this season a successful one.
"Keeping the kids in shape, keeping them trained well, and building up our confidence will really help us this season," she said. "Building up a program is no easy task for coaches and athletes alike. These kids are buying into the program and trusting each other and the training. It will pay off this season.
"Our team has grown in numbers quite a bit this season. We will be able to fill out a solid varsity team this season. I would say that this team is looking stronger than last year team without a doubt. I am excited to see what they can do. We have a few new girls out this season that are stepping out of their comfort zones. They are putting in the time and effort to better themselves this season."
Neosho opens its season August 25 against Thomas Jefferson.
Aug. 25 — vs. Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 1 — vs. Seneca
Sept. 7 — Seneca Open
Sept. 16 — Southern Stampede
Sept. 23 — East Newton Invitational
Sept. 29 — Nevada Invitational
Oct. 3 — Springfield Catholic Open
Oct. 10 — COC Meet
Oct. 21 — Districts