The Eagles, who also finished fourth in Region 5AAAAA, will only see five seniors return this year to the entire squad.
Howard will depend upon a small, but experienced core group of returning varsity runners to anchor the 40-man team in the coming season.
“There is a strong nucleus of runners here that are already trying to get the new runners ready for the season,” Howard said.
Sophomore Brian Matthews, junior Ross Gutger and senior Justin Brown are the lone returners that competed in last year’s state meet.
“They are all very driven to improve on last year’s results,” Howard said. “They want to make it back to state.”
Despite the team’s relative youth, Howard’s expectations have not changed.
“Our goals are the same every year,” he said. “We want to win the county and place in region. After that, we want a top ten showing in state.”
Creekview coach Tyrom Brown has found himself in a similar situation as Howard.
“There are quite a few new faces on the (boys) team,” Brown said.
Brown and the Grizzlies will also have to face the challenge of a new region and new state classification.
Brown still remained positive, however, when asked about the upcoming season.
“Practice so far has been excellent,” he said. “We’ve had a good group of kids come out. Our (boys) team is made up of a bunch of polite, hard-working and well-rounded guys. They do what they are asked to do, don’t make excuses and don’t get into trouble.
The Grizzlies will be led by senior runners Hunter Carter, who placed fifth in Region 7AAAA last year, and Austin Ryan, who placed second.
Brown also named sophomores Brennan Garriques and Elijah Cloy as athletes to keep a close eye on.
Defending county champion Woodstock was also hit hard by graduation and suffered a high turnover of runners in the offseason.
“(The boys team) is a work in progress,” Woodstock coach Kirk Scharich said. “The last two seasons we have lost four very good runners. We are trying to reload after losing Jared Richmond and Josh Stockton, who both ran around the low 16 minute mark.”
Scharich plans to build the squad around senior J.C. Cornett, last year’s county champion and Region 5AAAAA runner-up.
“J.C. is a strong runner with good leg speed,” Scharich said. “His best 5k is 15:54, and I look for him to lower that mark. Sophomore Owen Bailey is also coming off of a great summer and should be much improved.”
Scharich expects the effort that his team is putting into practice to pay off sooner rather than later.
“The men’s team is working very hard,” he said. “I am expecting some big improvements come October.”