Tiger runners set to open at Sullivan on Thursday.

The quantity is not great for the St. James High School cross country team this fall.

However, the quality, potentially, is.
Indeed, the Tiger runners are short on numbers but long in ability this fall, with eight boys on the roster and three girls.

The Tigers were scheduled to open its season yesterday in the Sullivan Invitational. However, that meet was backed up two days due to the heat and is now scheduled for Thursday, starting at 4 p.m.

Both the St. James boys' and girls' cross country squads are led by returning state-qualifying runners. And they have been pushed by other teammates in the preseason.

"The kids we have are really good," said St. James cross country head coach David Bond. "I credit that on the boys' side to Alex Auxier, who has had a huge impact on our kids to run year-round.

"We had three boys and one girl compete in the (West Plains) Joe Dixon Running Camp this summer and that has made a difference. They are the kind of kids that your biggest worry with them is that they will overtrain."

Auxier, a junior, competed in the Missouri Class 3 Championships last season (73rd overall) and is back to anchor the Tiger boys' squad.

He is joined by junior Seth Thompson, who was hurt and missed most of last season; junior Jordan Howard; freshman Issac Altis; sophomore Tucker Lepper, and seniors Collin Parks and Nick Burns.

"Alex is No. 1 but Jordan, Issac and Seth are right behind him," Bond said. "They're all pretty close."

For the Lady Tigers Bond said he wouldn't be surprised if all three - senior Hannah Perona and sophomores Leslie Perona and Parker Fane - make it to the state meet this fall. Leslie Perona went to the 2012 Class 3 Championships (59th overall) and Hannah Perona qualified for state as a freshman and sophomore.

"All three have improved, especially Leslie and Parker due to the experience they had last year," Bond said.

Bond said the Four Rivers Conference will again be strong.

"We're better than we've ever been, but the other schools in the conference are better as well," Bond said. "It should be a really exciting, competitive season."

This year St. James is in Missouri Class 3 District 2, along with John Burroughs, MICDS, Owensville, Pacific, Priory, St. Clair, St. Francis Borgia, Sullivan, Union and Westminster Christian.

2013 St. James cross country schedule:
Sept. 12...at Sullivan, 4 p.m.
Sept. 14...Linn Invitational, 9 a.m.
Sept. 19...at Steelville, 4 p.m.
Sept. 26...at Belle, 4 p.m.
Sept. 30...at Dixon, 4 p.m.
Oct. 2...St. James Invitational, 4 p.m.
Oct. 8...at Cuba, 4 p.m.
Oct. 15...at Owensville, 4 p.m.
Oct. 26...Class 3 District 2 Meet (tba)