OWERS - Many of the names and faces are familiar, but there will be something different about cross country at North Central this season.
The Jets, who open in Tuesday's Munising Invitational at 11 a.m. on the Valley Spur Cross Country Ski Trails, have elected to compete in Division 2 for the first time.
"It will be a challenge to the kids to up their game," said coach Jerry Root. "Although, we had good success against the D-2 teams last year."
North Central, which captured its first Upper Peninsula D-3 boys' title a year ago, returns a pair of all-state harriers in sophomore Seth Polfus and junior Bryce Holle, who placed second and fourth in last year's Finals. Polfus, however, may miss the first few meets due to a hip problem.
Additional upperclassmen on North Central's squad of 11, are seniors Dillon Robinson, Tristen Harper and Paul Nordstrom and junior Jared Gerlach.
The remaining underclassmen include sophomores Jon King and Tyler Bentley and freshmen Connor Robinson, Cameron Lauscher and Trent Holle.
Aug. 26 - at Munising.
Sept. 3 - North Central All-Class Invitational; Sept. 6 - at Superior Central; Sept. 9 - at Kingsford (Iron Mountain); Sept. 17 - North Central Small-Class Invitational; Sept. 20 - at Central Lake; Sept. 23 - at Munising.
Oct. 2 - at Gladstone (Flat Rock); Oct. 4 - at Escanaba; Oct. 8 - Central U.P./Skyline Conference meet; Oct. 13 - at Norway; Oct. 18 - U.P. D-2 Finals at Marquette (Harvey).
"We have a pretty good core of kids at practice each day," said Root. "We lost a valuable member (Josh Granquist) of our team through graduation, but we'll have enough kids to run jayvees in some meets. We have several kids vying to be in the top seven."
Among other teams, Root points to Munising as the team to beat in the Central U.P./Skyline Conference meet.
"Munising has everybody back, including Brett Hannah, and their girls are loaded," he said. "Mid Pen is also expecting to bring back cross country now that they've dropped football, which could make things interesting. As defending (boys') conference champ, we intend to compete for that. In D-2, Ishpeming is loaded and Hancock is always tough."
The North Central girls are represented by seniors Sam Cryderman and Kayla Arkens and sophomore Sarah Granquist.
"We're hoping to draw a few more girls once school starts," said Root. "Sam has come a long way since she first started. Kayla is a solid runner and Sarah is showing progress."