Darien, after all, came in fourth at last year's state meet and brings back its top runners and a bulk of its postseason point-getters, all of whom return having improved since last school year.
According to Norris, who founded the girls cross country program in 1976, the team's biggest strength is the experience of the four senior captains: Grace Loh, Sarah Colon, Ellen Bauer and Katie Farren. They compete year round and are entering into the fall season with improved winter and spring track times. All four captains have run cross country and track since their freshman year.
Loh finished fourth in last year's FCIAC championships, third in the state meet and improved on that during this past spring's track campaign, running a 5:07 mile.
Colon was the team's second runner with a best two-mile track time of 11:57. Bauer was the third runner and second team All FCIAC honoree. Farren was the fifth runner with a best two mile time of 12:38. Senior Sophie Long was the eighth runner, and senior Claire Walker returns with greatly improved times she put on display during the spring track season, Norris said.
"Six of our top eight runners are seniors who want to finish their careers with their best season ever. Last spring they all raced at a better level than last fall and all have put in substantially more summer training than ever before," Norris said. "The younger girls have followed their example by embracing the sport for two or three seasons."
Junior Alex Ford comes into her third cross country season with improved spring track times, the coach said. Sophomore Anne Johnston was the school's best two mile runner with a time of 11:26, and sophomore Elisabeth Lowe was the track team's second-fastest mile competitor with a time of 5:22.
The other key runners are sophomores Anne Johnston and Elisabeth Lowe, both new to cross country, and team members who stand to do well but are under the radar for now, Norris said.
"With little graduation losses and new talent Darien will surprise," Norris said.
In last year's Class L meet, Darien came in behind champion Wilton, runner-up Pomperaug of Southbury and E.O. Smith -- all teams that Norris expects will again be among the best in the division.
In last fall's FCIAC Championships, the Wave was fifth behind Ridgefield, Greenwich, Wilton and Westhill following a 15-2 campaign (the only losses were to Wilton and Greenwich).
The Wave move forward following the graduation of McKinley Stauffer who was the squad's fourth runner and second team All FCIAC honoree, Meredith Ott who was the sixth runner and captains Emma Davis and Katie Donovan.
Darien jumps into the fire with a season-opening meet against Ridgefield, Fairfield Warde and Stamford on the road in Ridgefield on Tuesday.
Norris believes this will be his team's toughest test during the regular season.
"They are defending state open champions and have sustained no graduation losses," Norris said.
Ridgefield should again be the team to beat in the FCIAC, and Norris says Darien is the only school with a chance to unseat the Tigers.
As far as the rest of the conference competition goes, Norris has high hopes for success.
"We should ultimately prevail with our depth," Norris said.