Don Powelson thinks the rest of the Seamount League is catching up with his Mount Rainier High School boys' cross-country program.
But the Rams haven't been caught yet, racing to a 4-0 start.
``I can see a lot of teams giving us a run for our money this year, and by that I mean they might be running ahead of us, too,'' Powelson said. ``I'd be surprised if we went undefeated this year. In fact, I'd be surprised if anybody went through undefeated this year. It looks like a very balanced league.''
Mount Rainier was 9-0 last year, followed by Lindbergh (8-1), Renton (7-2), Highline (6-3) and Kennedy (5-4). Powelson said he expects Lindbergh to give his club the biggest chase and, after two meets, the Eagles are the only other unbeaten team. They improved to 4-0 by topping previously undefeated Kennedy last Friday, 21-35. Kennedy slipped to 4-1.
Mount Rainier and Lindbergh run into each other Friday at Mount Si (3-2).
Lindbergh Coach Ken Storkson said his team is ``at least as good'' as last year.
``Whether or not we're good enough to beat Mount Rainier, I don't know, because they're good, too,'' he said. ``Our goal is to beat them and get back to the state meet and really do something, instead of just making an appearance and taking our bows. I think our goals are a little higher this year.''
Lindbergh placed 14th at the state meet last season.
The Eagles lost last year's No. 1 runner to graduation, but the next three are back: sophomore Bruce Pleasants and seniors Brad Erickson and Ryan Tokahashi. Plus, they've gotten a big boost from junior Dave Ledbetter, turning out for the first time.
``He might well turn out to be our No. 1,'' Storkson said. ``He's got great speed. I thought he would be good, but I didn't know he'd be this good.''
Freshman Barry Tomich has also turned out to be a solid addition to the team.
``He looks as good as any freshman we've ever had here,'' Storkson said.
But the Eagles are only five deep.
``Nobody can have a bad race, or we're out of it,'' Storkson said.
Mount Rainier, which lost conference champion Jason Larson to graduation, has a solid pack of runners of equal ability.
``We've got four or five guys right together,'' Powelson said. ``On any one day, any one of them could be No. 1.''
He said that is good news for the Rams.
``I think it's a great sign,'' Powelson said. ``That kind of team usually does well in big meets. Maybe we don't have that star dual-meet wise that we've been blessed with the last few years, but I think we'll be a good big-meet team.''
Mount Rainier swept the top seven spots against Liberty Friday, led by sophomore Andy Martin. Sophomore twins Jeff and Jerry Rice are in that top group along with seniors Toby Rice (no relation), Mike Knox and John Crane and sophomore Ryan Craig.
Kennedy has the best individual runner in the Seamount in junior Paul Graddon, who finished second in the conference meet last season and 19th at state. But the Lancers drop off considerably after that. Seniors Brent Saxwold and Dave Molvar and junior Brian French run in a pack after Graddon.
Hazen (3-2) is led by Carlos Velasquez, Ryan Ackley, Brian VanHouten and Mike Miele. The Highlanders lost to Kennedy on a tiebreaker in the first meet of the season, then were swamped by Lindbergh Friday.
Renton is just 2-2 after losing 29-30 Friday, despite a 1-2 finish by Craig Dyer and Paul Boyett. Mount Si shares fourth place with Hazen at 3-2 and has a front-runner in Isaac Gmazel.
Highline and Liberty are off to 1-3 starts. Tyee is 0-5. Evergreen is not fielding a team.