With four returning seniors, the Palmyra boys cross country team is looking to build become a solid group by season's end.

PALMYRA, Mo. – The Palmyra boys cross country team is smaller than usual this fall.

That means a slightly different approach to the season by coach Nick Koetters.

“We only have seven out this fall,” Koetters said. “I think right now it’ll be more focused on individual stuff and hopefully we can build the team aspect as we go along.”

Koetters doesn’t see that as a bad thing.

Of those seven runners, four of them are seniors. Spencer Locke is the only returner that ran at the Class 2 state meet a year ago, but Boyd Triplett and Mason Mitchell went to state as underclassmen when Palmyra won districts.

“It was a little sad last year because there was only two of us that went to state,” Locke said. “When you have three and four hotel rooms full of kids and have to get a dinner table for 12, it’s a lot better than a table for five.”

Getting there will mean the four seniors need to do their part and improve their times. Locke finished eighth at districts last season, but was 146th at the state meet. Triplett was 41st at districts, while Mitchell was 48th.

The hope is as the individual performances improve, so will the team as a whole. The plan is to have the team at full strength by the postseason.

“It seems like an individual sport, but it’s really not,” Locke said. “It’s so much more fun to run as a group.”

The experience the Panthers have could be the difference. They’ve experienced the state meet, and they’re eager to get back. Getting there means pushing each other because of the small numbers.

“If you don’t run together, you can’t score points,” Locke said. “We have to take baby steps to get there. (Koetters) is really good at how we pace ourselves. If we need to take a meet off, we will, because the only ones that really matter is conference and districts.”

The Panthers feel they can also use the small numbers to their advantage. They expect other schools in the state won’t expect Palmyra to qualify several runners to state.

They’d like to prove them wrong.

“You go to the state meet and we get asked where Palmyra is,” Locke said. “It’s nice to put a name up there.

“Up until a couple years ago we never had any aspirations because we were a young program. There’s still no target on our back or any expectations from anyone else. We just have to figure out who we are, and then we will build from that.”