Harold Huff is a bit puzzled, yet remains encouraged.
The same Sequim High program that produced a pair of state champions (Stephanie Marcy in 2006, Alli Cutting in 2008) and put seven girls teams and three boys teams in the state meet since 2002 still can't draw a surplus of runners in recent seasons.
Fortunately for the 10-year coach and his crew, this season's purple-and-gold runners have either loads of experience or plenty of potential.
A crew of 16 boys, half of them returning from last season's team that missed qualifying for state by a single point at districts, hit the paths for Sequim.
Senior Alex Jenkins and sophomore Adrian Clifford look to lead the hungry Wolves. The top two may be pushed by seniors Joe Dapcevich and Brogan Vesterby, junior Joel Christopher and freshman Dylan Chatters.
Jenkins finished 43rd at the state 2A meet in 2009 while Christopher and Clifford both had top-15 finishes at districts.
Huff likes what he sees from several of the Sequim boys who put in some miles during the offseason, particularly Dapcevich.
On the girls side, Audrey Lichten looks to qualify for the state meet for the fourth time in her Sequim career. Her best state finish was 20th overall in 2008.
"Audrey's in the best shape she's been," Huff says.
Sophomores Heather Murray and Amelia Ohnstad return to give the Wolves some depth. Newcomers Jasmine McMullin and Natalie McMurray, both sophomores, round out the roster of just five girls.
Needing five to score in a league meet, Huff says he can't have anyone hurt during the rigorous cross country season. Still, he says, the girls team looks solid.
"It's just a matter of some of them getting in shape," he says.
Looking at the Olympic League, Kingston, North Kitsap and possibly Port Angeles look like the frontrunners, with Sequim battling for a spot among the upper echelon.
Formerly 3A teams, North Kitsap and Port Angeles have dropped down to Sequim's 2A ranks, while the entire league joins a 21-team West Central District.
Huff says it looks as if only five teams and 25 individuals from districts qualify for state.
"It's not going to be easy," Huff says.
Clifford first at Capital
Sequim's Adrian Clifford is becoming quite fond of this season-opening race.
After topping the freshman class at the Capital Invite in Olympia in 2009, Clifford knocked off all challengers in the sophomore race as Sequim's Wolves opened the 2010 campaign down south on Sept. 11.
Clifford finished the 2.33-mile course in 12 minutes, 38 seconds to edge out Aberdeen's Poli Baltazar by 15 seconds and the other 121 sophomore runners.
Teammate Alex Jenkins was 12th in the 88-runner senior race with a 13:02 finish while a quartet of senior Wolves finished in places 34-51.
Dylan Chatters was
Sequim's top boy freshman, finishing in 14:12 for 19th place in the rookie class. Junior Joel Christopher was 31st with a 13:23 mark.
Running without their senior leader Audrey Lichten (she was taking a test Saturday), Sequim's four sophomore girls each earned top-50 finishes in a 79-runner race, with Jasmine McMullin placing 15th overall.
"The four sophomore ladies ran far beyond expectations," Huff said.