CLOVERDALE -- For Cloverdale's cross country team the key this year the key is quality, not quantity. With only five girls running and seven boys, it has to be.
But do not mistake the low numbers for weakness. Coach Sam Brown knows he'll be fielding some good runners.
This is especially true with the girls' team. While Brown says fielding only five girls is a tough, he quickly adds, "but they're five all-conference runners, so that's not bad."
Led by three-time all-WCC runner and three-time Putnam County champion Chelsie Haltom, the Clovers look to defend their Putnam County and WCC championships.
The other returning all-conference runners are Brynlea Mattocks, Alyssa Williams, Ashley McAllen and Jenna Lewis.
"The girls know there's a target on their backs, and with only five girls, they can't afford to have sickness or injury," Brown said.
One change is coming for girls' cross country teams this year -- the girls will now run five kilometers. Brown welcomes the change.
"The big difference this year is the girls have gone to 5K," he said. "I think that's going to help our girls."
With the change of distance and the need to avoid injury, Brown has been pleased with the work he has seen out of both of his squads all summer.
"They took the first week off after school, then they've run four days a week all summer," Brown said. Four of his girls and three or four of his boys answered the call all summer long.
"It's been a good summer," he said. "The kids have worked really hard."
On the boys' side, the Clovers are led by seniors Ryan Dean, James Fiddler and Raymond Monds. Brian Stout and Zach Waycott are the Clovers' juniors. Sophomore Kyle Chambers and freshman Chris Arnold round out the team.
"All of them set personal goals to accomplish this summer," Brown said. "Our main one is to accomplish our personal records every time out."
The big change for the both Clover teams is in sectional realignment. Rather than going just up the road to South Putnam, they will make the trip to Brown County. Not only will this be a change in the competition, but in the type of course. While South Putnam's course challenges runners with its hills, Brown will be doing speed work with his runners to prepare for Brown County.
"We're looking forward to the challenge," Brown said.
But whatever the Clovers have to prepare for, Brown feels good after the summer of work he's seen his runners put in.
"It's been a great summer," Brown said. "It's nice when you have athletes dedicated to the sport."
The Clovers open the season renewing a county rivalry, when they host Greencastle at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.