As he enters his 18th season as the head coach of the Butte Central cross country team, Bob Johnson likes what he sees.
His Maroons are young, but dedicated as they open the 2015 season Friday at a meet in Livingston. The race begins at 10 a.m.
“They’re young, but they’re running really well,” Johnson said. “Several of them put in some miles in the summer, and that is paying off.”
The Maroons have six boys and one girl on the varsity squad.
Junior Abby McGee is the lone BC girl runner. She has two year of varsity experience, and Johnson said she is coming into her own at the beginning of this season.
“She’s very competitive,” Johnson said of McGee, who posted a time of 21 minutes, 46 seconds at the Class A State meet last year. “She did a lot of training in the summer and she’s looking good.”
On the boys’ side, junior Ian Campbell is the elder statesman of the BC boys, who return four varsity runners from a year ago.
Campbell was in the midst of a strong sophomore season before an illness forced him to miss the State meet. He is back at full strength for the start of the season.
Brian McGeehan, Theron Nelson and Nathan Ortega are sophomores looking to build on solid freshman seasons.
McGeehan is the fastest returning Maroons. He ran an impressive 17:42 at State last year. Nelson went 19:20 at State, while Ortega ran 20:54.
Freshmen Cade Wyatt and Zach Carlson bring new blood to the Maroons.
Johnson said his team is in good shape, even though the team has been forced to practice inside the Maroon Activities Center several times because of smoky skies from forest fires.
“We do a lot of cross training,” Johnson said. “It helps with conditioning, but it sure isn’t helping with gaining endurance.”
That’s where working in the summer has paid off for the Maroons.
“They’re in shape,” Johnson said.
The Maroons open the season with two meets in a span of five days. BC will host the Butte Central Invitational at Fairmont Hot Springs on Tuesday.
The Maroons will also run at in the Mining City Oct. 3 at the Butte High Invitational. The State meet is Oct. 24 in Great Falls.