With 30 runners strong, cross country coach Steve Reichardt has been plenty excited to see how Augusta can improve this year. He will get an idea Thursday when the Orioles begin competition at the Clearwater Invitational.
The Orioles have a nice mix of seniors who have been running since they were freshmen and newcomer athletes. It was the younger runners last year who stepped in and produced several of the teams' best times. Now, runners like Tori Gilmore, Madie Becker and even Bailey Reichardt for the girls and Chase Winter and Reese Willis for the boys have another year under their belt along with an overall deeper group of teammates.
“A lot of novice runners, so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out. But we have really good senior leadership. With Reese and Chase, and with Madie and Tori, there's a really nice, strong group,” Reichardt said.
While coaching both levels of runners isn't easy, Reichardt said he's confident in the seniors' ability to set the pace for everyone else to follow.
“I kind of hope the more experienced ones lead the way,” Reichardt said. “...They're a fun group, but they know when it's time to work,” he said.
Though there's been plenty of heat, the weather has been more cooperative this time around. Reichardt feels the team is better prepared for the opener than it was a year ago.
Despite the new league alignments, Augusta has the same schedule as last year, as the Orioles still will be familiar with the course they'll run.