FRISCO -- The boys are back in town.
The Moffat County boys cross country team came into the season with four of the team's top five runners returning from last year. Yet, injuries, illness and absence had kept the Bulldogs from being where they thought they could be this year.
On Saturday at the Summit Invit--ational, the Bulldogs were back at full strength, and they lost only to Class 5A Palmer.
"With Ricardo (Pinedo) and Mike (McNicol) back, we can be a pretty good team," coach Todd Trapp said. "We're a much more complete team now."
Pinedo, a senior who ran at state his sophomore and junior year, left the team after injuries kept him from getting off to a good start. After watching the team run at its home meet, Pinedo rejoined the team on Sept. 26.
He finished as the Bulldogs' third runner in 19th place.
"It's good to be back," he said. "I'm not where I want to be, but I really missed the competition, and I'm ready to get going again."
McNicol, a sophomore, came into the season with an injured Achilles tendon. He took two weeks off in the beginning of September. Saturday was his second race back after the injury, and he was Moffat's fourth runner at 25th place.
"I felt a lot more smoother today," he said. "I still need to get my cardio back."
Trapp said the return of those two also would be a benefit for the Bulldogs' two front runners, juniors Jake Miller and Jeremy Bird.
"It gives them more confidence because they know the guys behind them are running well," he said. "It makes it easier when you know you're competing for a team effort, as well."
Miller finished third in the race, and Bird was sixth. Junior Shane Braselton was the fifth runner with a 36th-place finish, and Jake Breslin was 40th. The boys finished with 89 points. Last week, Steamboat Springs beat the Bulldogs by 10 team points in Craig. On Saturday, Steamboat was 26 points behind Moffat.
Steamboat was the closest Western Slope League team to the Bulldogs, but Battle Mountain may be the biggest challenge for the runners in blue when it comes to a regional title. The Bulldogs didn't get to size themselves up against the Huskies at the meet because most of their top runners had the weekend off for boys and girls.
The Moffat County girls have had all of their runners all year, but they didn't have the experience of the boys team. Now halfway into the season, the younger and/or less experienced runners are moving up front.
Freshman Alicia Nelson led the 'Dogs, as she has all season. She finished fifth. Junior newcomer Amber Suits was the second runner for the girls in ninth place. Sophomore Jeacey Robinson, freshman Laura Zirkle and junior Katie Morris finished out the top five, finishing in 17th, 22nd and 28th, respectively.
"It's a really hard course," Morris said. "We didn't pack up as well today as we have."
Trapp said he thought the girls became separated in the first mile, which was an uphill climb.
"The girls commented on how they weren't as together early," he said. "They feed off each other well in races, and I don't know if they had that chance as much today."
Senior Alyssa Macomber and freshman Erin Urbanoski finished 30th and 36th in the race. The girls' score of 81 was good enough for second place behind Palmer, as well.
Next up for the Bulldogs is the challenging Aspen course and a hard week of practice preceding the meet.
"This will be our toughest week of practice," Trapp said. "They'll have their longest run and some challenging workouts."