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Sandy runners in rebuilding mode

CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW - Youthful team hits the trails this fall
by: Kris Anderson Sandy senior Jenessa Well takes a practice lap during an early-season training run. The Pioneers finished in the middle of the pack in their first NWOC season.

The Sandy Pioneers cross-country team is on the run. Last year the Pioneers failed to qualify a runner for state for the first time in Anouxa Vixathep's 10-year tenure as head coach. It was a surprise and a letdown for the coach who knew 2011 was going to be starting from ground zero.

'The end of last year, to be honest, a little disappointed, because we didn't qualify anybody for state, and that was one of our goals,' Vixathep says. 'I knew we were losing a lot of senior leadership. But my biggest thing was we're going to work with the kids that we have, because we have kids that want to work, and they're a lot of fun to work with.'

With the departure of experienced runners, 2011 begins the long haul of returning the Pioneers' cross-country program to a place of competitiveness. And they'll do so with a group consisting of enough youth to create a foundation.

Even without a senior on the boys side, the Pioneers feel they have the leadership to guide a new batch of runners.

Junior Jimmy Frasier and sophomore Isaac Mitchell will hope to be the examples, as well as the Pioneers' most competitive racers. And the way they go about their training should be an example for other runners.

The girl's squad has the advantage of depth and a few more runners who have raced under Vixathep.

While the Pioneers graduated a few of their top runners, their No. 2 runner from last season, senior Iris Higgins, is back for one more year. Higgins, along with seniors Jenessa Well and Kim Smith will be the nucleus of the Pioneers, and the likely candidates to qualify for state.

One year after missing a trip to Eugene, the Pioneers find themselves staring uphill.