Senior Alex Ostberg headlines a Blue Wave boys cross country team that lost five of its top seven runners a state championship squad in 2013.
Ostberg, the Class L individual champion, placed third in last fall's State Open and second in the New England meet. The new Wave captain then followed that up with a third-place finish at the Foot Locker northeast regional championship, which qualified him for Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego, where he placed 11th and earned All-American honors.
"Alex had a dream junior year," said Darien coach Tyson Kaczmarek. "He just got better and better every week. But trust me, there is plenty more improvement to go."
Alongside Ostberg will be junior Armstrong Noonan. Noonan is coming off an outdoor track season where he placed third in the State Open two-mile race with a time of 9:17.
"That was an incredible time for Army," Kaczmarek said. "He had already run a race, too, which makes it even more impressive."
The two upperclassmen were the Blue Wave's top runners a year ago and are only familiar faces in 2014. Seven key seniors graduated, leaving Darien to rely on a new crop of talent to continue the program's recent success.
Included in the new mix are seniors Mikey Farren, Sebastian Rivero, Timmy Grozier, Carter Ashcraft and Brendan Triano. Juniors Jack Murray and Jack Consolini also figure to help fill in the five open spots, as well as sophomore Jackson Huffman.
"These guys made significant gains during the track season for the most part. That will carry over to cross country for sure," Kaczmarek said. --I have a lot of confidence in our top 10 runners."
Whether or not the Blue Wave can return to last year's lofty finish will of course partly depend on its competition. Ridgefield, Danbury and others project to be tough immediate competition within conference and border rival New Canaan returns a number of experienced runners.
"The FCIAC is a wicked competitive league. Did we lose a lot? Yes. So do I have realistic expectations for this team? Yes," Kaczmarek said. "We placed fourth in New Englands last year, but this is a different team. They will define themselves in a different way. I'm very excited for the season."