NASELLE, Wash. - "We have enough boys for a full cross country team, we have one girl out this season and we have six middle-school athletes working with us, so I am hoping for a great season," Scott Smith said of the Comets as he began his fourth year as head coach.

Nathan Reitz finished 12th at district last season, Drew Macy finished 17th and Conor Smith was 21st. All three are hopeful of moving up several places to earn invitations to the state meet in Pasco Nov. 8. "There were nine seniors ahead of Drew and 11 ahead of Conor," coach Smith said.

The WIAA will not make any decisions about how many individual or team berths each district will receive for several weeks, but last season the top 10 boys and the top two teams represented District IV and those numbers should be similar to this year's allocation for the 1B/2B event.

Rounding out the boys' team is Cramer Smith, Ollie Baker and Alex Bighill. Alana Darcher is the lone girl out for the Comets. "All of our kids are athletic and about half of them are already in excellent shape. We are hoping to peak at district. Right now we are building a base with our conditioning program," Smith said.

His squad is working on building endurance by running as far as they can in 40-minute intervals. "We had some of our guys doing seven miles in the first couple of practices," Smith said.

His plan is to spend the first five or six weeks on endurance training, improving blood volume, lung capacity and the heart's ability to pump more blood. Smith, a science teacher at Naselle, said, "Then we can work on speed and taper off the last week before district."

The League

He expects Northwest Christian (Lacey) and White Pass to again be the top teams in District IV. NWC was second in the state to St. George and White Pass finished behind Reardan in fifth place in Pasco a year ago.

"We will do cross training to increase our core strength and to lessen the chance of injury. We will continue to run at several different places to keep the mental fatigue to a minimum," Smith said.

The Comets will do the "Tilly Head Trail" between Cannon Beach and Seaside and around Tillamook Head. They also will run at Fort Clatsop, Radar Lake and do the Long Beach "ice cream run" on Discovery Trail, with a stop at the team's favorite ice cream shop on the agenda.

"Our goal is to be better runners at the end of the season than we were at the start. Individually several of the boys and Alana have a shot at state and our boys team could challenge for at least third place in the district. The main thing is that we learn a healthy lifestyle and running is a big part of that," Smith said.

Naselle opens Sept. 6 at Ocosta. The Pacific 1B/2B League meet will be Oct. 25, also at Ocosta, and District IV will be Nov. 1 at St. Martins University.

One title the Comets would love to defend is being academic state cross country champions. "We have a lot of smart kids. I just hope they keep concentrating on running, too," Smith said with a smile.