Kim Smith and Marie Schmitz were observers last season. On a team full of seniors, they watched the veterans and followed their lead, absorbing the traits that made the Sandy girls cross country team a success in 2011.

This season, many of those runners are gone, and the team has a new look. With an influx of underclassmen, Sandy doesn’t have the same amount of experience. It’s a young team, and today, the veteran presence largely consists of three seniors, which include Smith and Schmitz.

“It feels different because last year there were a lot of leaders, and we tagged along,” Schmitz says. “Now we’re the leaders. You have to take responsibility and help the younger people.”

The popularity of cross country is taking hold at Sandy High School. In the past, runners would wait until their sophomore or junior year to join the team. But this season, the team mostly consists of underclassmen, all looking toward Smith and Schmitz to show them the way.

“We have so many new people, which is so exciting, because, usually, freshmen don’t know cross country exists,” Smith says. “We definitely have a good team for the future.”

And Smith and Schmitz are being asked to help prepare this group for the future. Sandy coach Anouxa Vixathep doesn’t know how his team will preform this season, but he’s expecting the normal obstacles for any young squad

“We’re going to struggle a little bit,” he says. “We’re really young and inexperienced. But they’re a great group and they want to work. I can’t ask for anything more than that.”

He expects this team to make great strides this year and start to compete in the coming years. In practice and off the track, Smith and Schmitz will help instill the traits that made Sandy successful. On the track, both runners expect to far exceed their performances from last season.

Both runners trained hard over the summer, and Schmitz says she’s already running fast times than she did at the end of last year.

“I’m excited because I’m going to run well, and I’m a lot more focused,” she says. “I don’t just want to finish. I want to place.”

Dalen Richardson, who plays soccer and ran cross country last season, will also be one of the team’s top runners.

And with the help of all three runners, Sandy wants to have the look of last season by the end of this season.

“Hopefully by the end of the season we can get close,” Smith says. “We have a lot of talent on the team.”

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