Rebuilding a program after losing athletes to graduation can be tough. Having a successful season and then returning the core of your team is a coaches dream.

For the Melissa cross country program, that is their reality.

"Luckily we only lost a couple of runners on the boys side and no runner on the girls side so we’ve pretty much got the same core as last year," Coach Michael Bardgett said. "That said, every year you want to see improvement, so each runner has put it upon themselves to become a stronger, faster runner than last year."

Melissa hopes to improve upon its success from last year and has been working all summer to ensure that happens.

"We had a great summer with almost all of our varsity runners at almost every practice, which was Monday through Saturday starting in May," Bardgett said. "It’s the best summer we’ve ever had, and I’m excited about what that kind of base is going to allow them to do this season."

So far, Melissa has had a tri-meet and two relays but that is all part of Bardgett’s plan to get the team both mentally and physically prepared for the important meets of the season.

"We’re really trying to go light on meets early in the season," Bardgett said. "My philosophy is to spend as much time training before you really have to perform in meets. So we’re doing a lot of relay meets early along with taking some weekends off to get some extra training days in."

Melissa will participate in the UTA Invitational at Lynn Creek Park in Grand Prairie, and on Sept. 21 will travel to Sanger for the Indian Run at the Porter Sports Complex. The following week, the varsity girls team will run in the Oklahoma State University Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater for the second straight year.

"We’re going to look to start racing around the end of September and hopefully really start hitting our stride by district," Bardgett said.

The Cardinal runners will also have meets at the University of North Texas, Bear Branch Park in the Woodlands and wrap up their season with the Melissa Invitational in Country Ridge Park on Oct. 12.

Melissa will also host the district meet at Country Ridge, and from there qualified runners will participate in the regional meet at Lynn Creek Park in Grand Prairie. On Nov. 9, the regional qualifiers will get to run in the state meet at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

"Overall we’re a lot stronger than we were last year," Bardgett said. "We’ve introduced more long runs into our workouts and really tried to hammer hard on tempo runs and I think that has given them a lot more confidence in their endurance heading into the season.

"I think I’m most pleased by the overall consistency I have seen," Bardgett said. "These kids want to be good and they’re putting in the work to get them there."

Varsity Girls:

Ashley New

Jackii Thomas

Kambri Gabel

Kailey Burton

Sophie Bennett

Megan Brown

Varsity Boys:

Trace Greer

Hunter Mark

Kathan Price

John Slavin