When school is not in session Centralia's Peyton Davis travels the country competing in some incredibly grueling running events, so Panther's varsity cross country coach Jason Watermann knew he was going to make the guys around him better once the season started.

Once he learned that Duke Newsted was going to be dropping football in favor of cross country in an effort to create greater cardio for himself on the wrestling mat, once again it seemed like a pretty safe bet that he was getting a quailty athlete. Put that duo together and Watermann had a very good idea of what his boys squad was capable of this year.

"The boys were about what I suspected. I knew Peyton Davis would be a great senior leader for them, and I knew Duke Newsted would be good," Watermann said. "What amazed me though is how each week Duke continued to set goals and crush them. He was our lone boy runner that made it to state. (I'm) super proud of him."

During the regular season the boys finished second in the Clarence Cannon Conference and the girls placed first. It was actually the girls squad that Watermann thought would be the better of the two, and it did not disapoint.

"The girls I knew would be good, but I was very surprised how many top-three finishes as a team they had," said Watermann. "Schyler Angell (medaled in every regular season race) and Chris Heimann (medaled in every regular season race but two) really took the lead and never gave up their respective one and two spots. This was our first year in class 3. We really held our own. If we would have stayed in class 2 I have no doubt our girls team would have made it to state and our boys had a great chance."

One unexpected turn of events was the injury suffered by Kyra Dickerson. While the squad really could have used her contributions on the course, the fact she went out of her way to give to this program in so many other ways is an absolute testament not only to her as an individual, but to the team concept as a whole.

"We knew Dickerson would have to take a different approach this year, and seemed like we were well on our way of total recuperation, but our first meet of the year she had to stop the race early," Watermann said. "From there we decided continuation of this sport wouldn't be in her best interest. To Kyra's credit she stayed and did a modified cross training workout. She'd be in the huddle at the start and end of every practice, rode with us to every meet. She was the ultimate teammate."

Because cross country allows for a healthy roster size, the fact Centralia is graduating eight athletes this year isn't neccesarily as bad as it sounds. It simply depends on the strength of the roster based on the remaining talent, as well as how skilled the incoming freshmen are.

"Two girls and six boys. They have been there since the beginning of my coaching career here at Centralia," said Watermann. "They have brought leadership through example, and have been a mainstay with me (for what) seems like forever. I really don't know how I will react starting next season and they will not be there. They will truly be missed by the team, and especially me."

The one boy who made the state meet for the Panthers, Duke Newsted, is a junior, while the lone girl to reach that same height, Schyler Angell, is a sophomore, so at least Watermann has that going for him.

"The eighth graders on our middle school team show a ton of promise. We are losing two senior girls but gaining three really good freshmen. Each one of them were all conference and one of them medaled in every meet but one. On the boy side were are gaining some great leaders. Watching those eighth grade boys mature throughout the season really impressed me, and I know they will make a smooth transition onto the high school team.