For two of its best runners, all that the Moffat County boys track practice is missing is a tumbleweed blowing across the infield.
"It feels empty," senior sprinter Daniel Tague said. "I have more guys working out with me, but somehow it feels empty."
"Runs are weird this year," junior middle distance runner Der-ek Duran said. "I don't have my usual partners."
Duran and Tague are the re--maining runners from a track team that had 11 returning state qualifiers last year. That team was in the lead of the 2004 State Track Meet through the first day.
The overall numbers this year (40 athletes) are similar to last year, but the familiar faces aren't there.
"We're really young," coach Gary Tague said. "It's a group that wants to work hard to get better, but who really knows right now what we'll look like? We won't look very good in the first meet."
Daniel Tague was part of one of the best 400-meter relay teams in school history. Two of the members graduated, and the third didn't come out this year.
"There are a lot of spots open in the sprinting area," coach Tague said. "We had some upperclassmen come out for the first time who could help."
Duran ran on the best 3,200-meter relay team in school history. The team finished third at state and broke the school record by 10 seconds. The other three runners graduated.
During Tuesday's practice, Dur-an commented about how different practice was without his relay partners from last year.
"I don't know who to run with right now," he said.
Coach Tague expects for the tumbleweed complex to decrease as the season goes by.
"We've got a great sophomore class," he said. "Things go in cycles, and last year's senior class was strong, and the sophomores have the potential of being similar."
Sprinter Andrew Drake, thrower Cory Pike and distance runners Jeremy Bird and Jake Miller are a part of that sophomore class. All showed their potential as freshmen, and Tague said they could emerge as leaders this year.
"We're really developing in throws, and Pike is one of those leaders," the coach said. "Everybody that finished ahead of Bird in the two mil at regionals grad-uated."
Other athletes with experience include seniors Rowan DuBois and Steve Crisp. DuBois ran at state as a sophomore in the 1,600 relay and again will be one of the team's top quarter milers. Crisp has had more success in cross country during his first three years, but coach Tague said he thought the senior could surprise some people this year.
As the season goes on, coach Tague said he thinks things will work out.
"We'll fill the relays," he said. "And we have good athletes in the jumps, so we're have something to work with."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.