Woodlawn High opens cross country season eager to take next steps both on the tracks and as a program.

The Panthers open their 2022 schedule at 8 a.m. Saturday at Highland Road Park for the Episcopal Round Table Run with improvement on personal times and expansion of the roster both top of mind.

“I’m just looking forward to running,” senior Jaden Sylvester said. “As a team we’re just looking forward to pushing forward and, just, finishing. Like the new incoming freshmen that we’re getting, we’re looking for them to finish. And the veterans, we’re looking for better placement out of them from last year, better times and those things.”

Sylvester, who joined the team last year from football, is among a core senior group that also includes Dylan Aucoin and Hunter Kullman on the boys side and Andrea Rodriguez on the girls side.

Sophomore Kennedi Kullman is another key returner on the varsity squad.

And new athletes with high expectations include A.J. Warner, whom coach Tim Spruill said has the drive and leadership of a veteran, and Winston Dunn, who will join the team when possible around his football duties.

“Our No. 1 goal is always to have fun and turn these kids into life-long runners,” Spruill said. “But, beyond that, we really want more top-10 individual finishes and at least one top-three finish as a team for both boys and girls.”

The Panthers accomplished that goal last season with a deep roster on the girls side and just a few boys on the team.

Those numbers have flipped this fall with more boys on the roster to enter the season, but more athletes are welcomed to join the program at any time.

“We are always looking for new athletes,” Spruill said. “We train all year, and you can join at any time. It is difficult for seniors to join midseason, but ninth, 10th and 11th graders can join any time during the season or offseason.

“It takes a lot of work and a long time to get fit to compete in this sport. When you join as a freshman, you are really training for your sophomore year. If you stick with it long enough, you can break school records by your junior or senior year.”

Any students interested in joining should email [email protected], visit coach Spruill in room 559 or join the remind @woodlawncc and send a message.

Following this Saturday’s event, Woodlawn will attend meets at Brusly High each of the remaining two Saturdays in September.