CENTER, Mo. – Erin Mack likes the Mark Twain boys and girls cross country teams she’s coaching this fall.
It’s not because they have a chance to win an individual or team state title. It’s because she can mold them into that in the future.
The Tigers have 13 runners out this season across both teams, and only two are upperclassmen. The rest are sophomores and freshmen that are raw, but eager to work.
"I was actually talking about that to my athletic director earlier today," Mack said. "I don’t have any seniors. We’ve very young."
One of those is Zoe Miller, who finished 97th in the girls Class 2 state meet last fall, running in 23 minutes, 57.20 seconds. She’ll not only look to return to the state meet, but be one of Mark Twain’s leaders.
Mack also sees sophomore Elizabeth Northcutt to be another top runner for the girls, while sophomores Jackson Jung and Will Owen will guide the boys team.
"To be this young and have the key returners, and this incoming group of freshmen, there’s a lot of potential," Mack said. "We’ll be young. But I’m excited we’ll be young because we’ll have the numbers on our side the next few years."
She believes those experienced runners will be able to turn in successful seasons.
"I think Zoe can repeat last year," Mack said. "We weren’t able to compete as teams last year, so this year we’ll be able to and that’s a change, but a good change. I’m hoping Zoe looks strong, and she can stay healthy.
"If I can get Elizabeth to push up there, that would be another good thing. Will and Jackson are strong runners, and they push each other."
If they can, that’ll create a strong foundation for the next few years as the Tigers continue to grow.
"I’ve called on them several times already this week to demonstrate something," Mack said. "They’re ready and eager to step up to the plate. I don’t know if they were ready at first, but I think it’s something they’ll overcome in time as we rely on them."