New Canaan High School's girls cross country team may not have been one of the best teams in the FCIAC or state last season, but there may be good reason to not overlook the Rams this fall.
New Canaan brings back its top 15 runners from a squad that went 8-9 last year before placing 11th in the FCIAC championships and 14th in the Class L state finals.
"We had a young team last year," coach Art Brown said.
And with that year of experience and level of ability the team members possess, Brown is quite optimistic his team will make some big strides in 2012.
"This is the best we've been in a few years," the third-year coach said. "We're all really looking forward to the season. I know we're going to be much more competitive."
Just how competitive the young-turned-seasoned Rams will be remains to be seen.
Tough competition stands to come from the likes of defending FCIAC champion Ridgefield, Wilton and Darien among others. Wilton was tops in the state division meet last year.
Among the other key team members are seniors Lana Delvecchio, Lily Citrin and Olivia Hompe, a standout athlete who is lacing up her sneakers to run cross country for the first time. Juniors are Elizabeth Perry, Alex Naughton, first year team member Liz Gordan, Isabel Heatherington, Keaton McAuliffe, Allie Bel Bruno, Christina Donovan, Jenna Sachs and Emily Wood.
"We have a really great group of kids this year. Practices are going really well," Brown said this past week as preseason unfolded.
The Rams are set to open the regular campaign with a Sept. 12 home meet at Waveny Park, when Brien McMahon of Norwalk, Westhill of Stamford, Danbury and Fairfield Ludlowe visit.
On Sept. 18, the Rams again are at Waveny, when Wilton, Fairfield Warde, McMahon and Norwalk High come to town.
After three more regular season meets, New Canaan will be tested in the postseason, culminating with the Class L championships at the end of October and, potentially, the state open and New England championships in early November.