WENATCHEE — It should be an exciting season for the Wenatchee Panther Cross Country team. Both the boys and girls have a shot at making state with two berths allotted to the Big 9 this season.

The trouble has been that Eisenhower always grabs that top spot, but Panther Head Coach Susan Valdez, now her 22nd year, feels they will give Ike a run for their money.

There are 68 kids turning out this season, 24 girls and 44 boys.

“I never want to count my chickens before the eggs hatch, but I think we have a lot of experience and talent. We have young talent. We’re really heavy on sophomore boys. A lot of those boys ran varsity times,” Valdez said. “We have some competition there. I have some senior boys coming back that have been working pretty hard. I’m anxious to see how the boys are going to do.”

Valdez feels like her team can grab one of those two berths to state. Eisenhower is always strong. West Valley starts slow but are tough when districts roll around. The Eastmont boys have been strong the past couple years.

“Our boys are trying to work their way into that group,” Valdez said. “We would like to finish in the top two. It’s putting a big goal out there but we’ve talked about it a lot. Last year, only one team went to state. This year, we want to snag one of those two berths.”

The Wenatchee girls finished second in the Big 9 last year. Valdez hopes they can finish second again and go to state. In order to be district champion, you have to beat Eisenhower, she said, so let’s push for that number one spot.

“I think we are pretty solid. With some of the girls running and the talent we have, I think we can give the Eisenhower girls a challenge. We won’t know until the first league meet, but I think we have some kids hungry for Ike. We’re tired of hearing about Eisenhower. We’ve sent kids to state, but we’ve always been behind them,” Valdez said.

Wenatchee opens the season on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Highlander Invite.

Ian Dunn: 664-7157