The Hannibal boys cross country team has nine runners out this fall. While young, they hope to be a surprise.

HANNIBAL – The Hannibal boys cross country team has nine runners out this fall.

That gives the Pirates depth during races. However, they’re also young as junior Brice Miller is the oldest on the team.

Miller, however, doesn’t see that as an issue this season.

“I hope we could surprise some of the teams with the talent we have,” Miller said. “I like that we’re a younger team because I’ll get to run with these guys for more than just a year.”

While young, the Pirates do return several runners that ran at the varsity level like Xavier Damotte and Jacob Chatman. Freshmen Cameron Nichols and Eli Hess also join the team and expect to compete for a top five spot.

“I think we could have a pretty solid team this year,” Miller said. “It’s going to be fun out here with these great guys.”

That depth is what excites coach Charlie Newland. He believes they’ll push each other to improve throughout the season.

Newland said getting more runners out is key to building a cross country program.

“We’ve really been beating the bushes to get kids to come out,” Newland said. “It’s hard to convince kids to run, especially in today’s age.”

The group that is out – the Pirates have nine runners competing this season – are eager to run and improve from last season’s finish in the North Central Missouri Conference meet. Beyond that, they hope to advance farther in the postseason as no runner reached the Class 4 state meet.

That’s a goal for the Pirates, but won’t determine if the season is a success or a failure.

“My end goal is to be a state runner, and I’d like for my teammates to be there, too,” Miller said. “But when it all comes down to it, state isn’t a huge goal. It’s to grow as a team.”

The Pirates will certainly do that this season.