Of course when you graduate four seniors from a boys' team that had made back-to-back trips to the semistate, there is certain to be a void to be filled. Perhaps even more pressing a question is whether there will be a girls team for the Eels this year.
Keith Jones' first practice of the year took place without a single girl and more than a week later, the Eels have had just two girls who have practiced sparingly as the new season approaches.
"We're just going to have to wait and see," said Jones when asked about the state of the girls cross country team this year. "We've had a couple of girls who have practiced, but not regularly. We may just have to wait until school starts and try and wrangle a few more girls into running."
Though some might say that the Eels are in a rebuilding mode after graduating four runners who all placed in the sectional's top-30 last year, Jones believes that there is still plenty of talent in the cupboard.
"I don't think we're rebuilding, we actually had Kevin Cook, Ben Dickey and Braxton Griffith who ran in the top seven last year," said Jones. "Obviously not having a true 1-2 runner will hurt, but it'll be interesting."
Jones' 1-2 punch of Adam Schroer and Logan Bettenbrock have graduated, but coming back is sophomore Parker Modesitt who placed 18th in last season's Terre Haute Sectional. Cook wasn't far behind with a 20th place finish for the Eels. Dickey was also a top-30 runner in the sectional and that group should give the team a solid scoring base for the 2007 season.
Jared Tiefel and Conner Modesitt are also a part of the sophomore class that fills out the Eels' roster for the 2007 season.
Griffith's return from a leg injury that cut short his cross country season is important, but he sat out the spring track season and has returned to practice this fall. His presence in the lineup is important to a team that is underclassmen heavy.
Several freshmen are a part of the Eels' squad after having success at the junior high level last season.
Jessie Vansickle scored a fourth place finish in the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference meet and he is joined by Kyle Yocom who just missed all-conference honors with an 11th place. Austin Sinders was 14th in the race but was less than 15 seconds out of the All-SWIAC team.
"In practice (the freshmen) have done fairly well," said Jones. "We won't really know until they run in a meet though. Sometimes you run well in practice but not in meets and others run better in meets than in practice. We'll have to wait and see."
Despite the squad's relative youth, Jones feels that last year's run to the semistate will help this team down the road.
"This is a pretty competitive group. They've been places (as a team) that a lot of other teams they will run against haven't been. There's going to be an adjustment period."
The Eels will have a little extra time to get ready after deciding not to participate in the Early Bird Invite at the LaVern Gibson Complex as they have in the past. Clay City's first meet will be at the Riverton Parke Invite on Aug. 25.