HALSTEAD — The Halstead High School boys' cross country team was young, but still had a stellar year.

The Dragons have gained some experience from last season and look to continue to battle for league, regional and state honors.

Curtis Vermillion begins his 26th season with the Dragons, assisted by Donovan Regehr, in his 12th season.

The Halstead boys were second in the Central Kansas League, second in Class 3A regionals and sixth at state. The Halstead girls didn't have enough runners to score at league or regionals last year.

Nine letterwinners return for the Halstead boys led by sophomore Steven Cline, who took 10th at state last year. Sophomore Patrick Porch also medaled at state, taking 20th.

Also back are senior Avery Bethard, senior Conner Porch, junior Darien Dawson, junior Jayson Kepple, sophomore Nathan Loucks, sophomore Adam Sigwing and sophomore Jacen Spragg. Dawson, Spragg and Sigwing also competed at state.

Top newcomers include freshmen Dakota Blaylock, Peyton Carr, Colby Hiebert, Neil Owens and Davin Whitmer, along with first-time runners sophomore Cory Hiebert and senior Kyler O'Neal.

"The boys’ team returns several runners from last year, most with solid varsity experience," Vermillion said. "The main goal this squad has set is to return to the state meet and try to improve on the sixth-place 3A finish from last season. Many of them have been running during the summer, and seem poised to step up and accept the challenge. We have a good group of newcomers to the squad, who will provide depth and challenge for varsity positions.

"This group has a good work ethic, and seems to be excited about the season. We hope everyone can stay healthy, get better each week, and run with a purpose. The possibility exists to surprise some people this year, if these guys can stick together and put forth the needed effort."

Three letterwinner return for the girls — senior Mallory Williams, junior Courtney Glassco and sophomore Sophie Soward.

Top newcomers include freshman Courtney Grider, a transfer from Royal Valley High School in Hoyt; senior Taylor Nichols, who ran cross country before transferring to Halstead two years ago; freshman Cailleen Walters; and freshman Dominique Williams.

"We will not have big numbers out again this year for the high school girls’ team, but will try to be competitive every meet," Vermillion said. "This year’s team should be a hard working group, and will hopefully improve as the season progresses. Any returning girl runner does have experience at the varsity level. The main goal is for all these girls to become mentally tough and push themselves each day to get better. We will want to improve daily, and hope for a solid season."

2014 schedule

Sept. 4 @ Clearwater Inv. 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 11 @ Swather Special (Hesston GC) 4 p.m.

Sept. 18 @ Centre Inv. (Herington CC) 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 @ Southeast of Saline Inv. 4 p.m.

Oct. 2 Halstead Inv. (Wedgewood GC) 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 9 @ Burrton Inv. (Harvey County Park West) 4 p.m.

Oct, 16 CKL @ Nickerson 4 p.m.

Oct. 25 Regionals TBA

Nov. 1 State @ Rim Rock Farm