After finishing first and second in the county last year, the Destin Middle School Marlin cross country teams are hoping for a repeat this year.
“I’d say we’re looking really strong considering we have a really young group with a lot of amazing novices that have just shown up unexpectedly,” said Destin cross country coach Tina Barron.
Last year, the Destin boys placed first in the Okaloosa County championships, while the girls finished in second.
“Our group of returners are going to be great mentors for those young athletes,” Barron said.
She noted that young athletes are already running paces that are “very solid and strong.”
As for returning Marlins to watch for on the course, Coach Demetrius Stevens said to look for Abigail Kline, Sara Crews, Sophie Kellogg, Emily Kellogg, Luke Bilger, Michael O’Leary, Reed Phillips and Patrick Casey to set the pace.
“Luke and Sophie finished in the top two or three all season long last year,” Stevens said. “And Michael (O’Leary) was a top four or five finisher.”
Sophie Kellogg, as a fifth grader last year, made it to state and finished in the top 20.
So things are looking up for the Marlins this year.
“I think we should win,” Barron said.
However, Coach Stevens said there are a couple of teams that the Marlins will have to keep an eye out for.
“Liza Jackson is always strong and Ruckel has a good program going right now,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said the Marlins “are extremely hard-working.”
Destin will get their first test on Sept. 13 when they travel to Fort Walton Beach to take on St. Mary’s, as well as Meigs Middle and Walton County Middle School. Race time is 4 p.m.