With so few practices and without a definite number of just who is going to be running this season, head girls' cross country coach Doug Bacon admitted there is a lot that has yet to be decided this season.
Bacon will work with 25-30 athletes this season and three of the team's top runners from last year are back with a chance to make an even bigger imprint on their Marshalltown careers.
"This year's team is well focused, and there is not a lot of interest in horsing around, which I love," Bacon said. "We are working as hard as we can right now, but it is very early and we haven't established much yet."
What has been established for the Bobcat harriers are the top three varsity spots. Those three runners this year will be sophomore Rachel Blagg and juniors Wynn Tan and Michaela Huey.
Blagg will be the bona fide No. 1, according to Bacon. She had a strong freshman season for the Bobcats and should be competitive this fall.
Tan and Huey will be the No. 2 and No. 3 this year, but Bacon said the order has not been established and could honestly change with each meet. Both of those runners are entering their third season of varsity action.
What has not been established by Bacon are the other four varsity spots, but he knows he has about six runners who are competing for the open slots.
"It is too early and too close to call at this point," Bacon said. "Right now we are all just working hard to get in shape. We'll see how much harder we'll have to work to get in better shape soon. It's still very early in the process."
The Bobcats will compete in a time trial this week. Bacon said that will help them figure out where they are and where they need to improve.
"We'll find out where we stand in the next few weeks," Bacon said. "Things will shake themselves out soon enough."
The CIML this season is stacked with really good teams, as it is every year.
Dowling Catholic has been the reigning state champion for several straight seasons. The Maroons also welcome back the defending state champion in sophomore Grace Gibbons. They also return five starters from last year's squad.
West Des Moines Valley placed fourth last year, while Waukee was sixth, Johnston was seventh, Des Moines Roosevelt finished ninth and Ames was 13th. Valley, Waukee and Johnston all return five starters, while Roosevelt brings back four and Ames welcomes three returnees.
Marshalltown was fifth at regionals a season ago and lost its top runner to graduation. Sarah Shirar ended her season early last year due to injury but will run this season for Wartburg College.
The girls will officially start the season Thursday at Marshalltown Community College in the Earlybird Invite at 4:30 p.m. That meet will feature Dike-New Hartford, Grundy Center, Ottumwa, South Tama, Waterloo East, Waterloo West, Webster City, Belle Plaine and Twin Cedars.
The Bobcats also will run Sept. 1 at the Pella Invitational at 11 a.m. The Bobcat Invitational will be Sept. 6 at Marshalltown Community College at 4:30 p.m.