KINGMAN - It's a new attitude this season for the Kingman High cross country team. Rather than having to compete in the Arizona Interscholastic Association's Class 5A-II that was composed of the state's 33rd through 64th largest schools, the Bulldogs run up against the competition in Division II, which houses the 52nd through 101st largest.
"I love it," KHS coach Anne Bathauer said. "I did a dance because I think we can be successful. It'll still be a challenge because there are some good teams like defending state champion (Oro Valley) Ironwood Ridge."
The Bulldogs begin the season at The Peaks Cross Country Invite Saturday in Flagstaff, and the boys team believes they could be on the edge of greatness.
"They're really shaping up," Bathauer said. "We're farther along than past years because we have older kids."
Senior Jesse Peterson leads that group, which includes David Haun, Shaun Wootten, Kevin Gibelyou, Preston Hammond, Jesus Lozoya, Kevin Laird, Brennan
Cruz, Tyler Skubal, Ethan Swenson, Leo Delgado and Patrick Webb all vying for seven starting varsity spots.
"I'm really excited about the team," Peterson said. "We have a bunch of good people, and we're going to do very, very well."
Girls in process
The girls team is building toward what the boys have with their youth and are also battling a couple of early season injuries with Shannon Johnson and Haley Moore in the recovery stage.
"If you can get five girls running about the same times, you'll have a good program," Bathauer said. "We're a young team, and we're seeing some big step ups. I'm excited about what's coming and what they can do."
Sophomore Paige Cardiff is the Bulldogs' leader on the course, with Olivia Anderson, Lexi Bathauer, Heather Paulsteiner, Destiny Bedow, Johnson, Moore, Katie Tarr, Vanessa Ozanne and Megan Yellowman all battling for starting positions.
"It's a real test for them this weekend," Bathauer said. "It'll be a good experience."
Cardiff placed in the Top 25 at state a year ago, and Bathauer sees Cardiff improving on that this season.
"Paige is running stronger than ever," the coach said. "I'm real excited about her chances in D-II. She can be a top runner at state."
Cardiff said that this being her second year running high school cross country has alleviated some of her anxiety.
"There are still some races I haven't raced before, but I'm not as nervous," she said. "I still get a little nervous because of the high expectations, but that stays with you no matter how much you have run."
The girls want to prove they can be more competitive this year than they were last season.
"We've definitely improved," Cardiff said. "We have a better chance to win some races and get some trophies."