The Shepaug girls cross country team has experience, some talented newcomers and should once again be in the mix for titles at the end of the 2018 season, while the boys team is welcoming a new head coach.

The Spartans girls finished as Class S runner-up to Immaculate of Danbury last season. Back for his fourth season as the girls cross country coach at Shepaug, John Spear has a talented group that will look to get over the hump this season.

Key runners for Shepaug will be seniors Aileen Rosa and Elisa Afiouni who were both First Team All Berkshire League last season. Freshman Eilish Foy is already making an impact as she was the top finisher at the Washingtonville Invitational.

“Our goal for the season is to improve each week and be ready for the championship run seven weeks from now,” Spear said. “We return a strong core from last year’s Berkshire League and state runner up teams and we are looking to improve on both of those performances. Many of the girls had a good summer training and have come into the season ready to win a championship.”

With Immaculate moving to Class SS, Spear expects Derby, Thomaston, and East Hampton to be highly competitive at the end of October.

According to Spear, the Berkshire League will be tough with Nonnewaug returning almost everyone from last year’s BL and Class M championship team. Lewis Mills is always deep, talented, and well coached and Thomaston has a group of young runners that should improve throughout the season.

“Overall we want to be there with these teams at Black Rock near the end of October,” Spear said.

Shepaug runs Saturday at the Stratton Brook Invitational in Simsbury and then hosts Housatonic Regional and Northwestern on Sept. 18.

On the boys team, coach Christine Scott takes over after two years as an assistant coach at Watertown High School.

“This is my first year coaching the boys cross country team here at Shepaug, and I’m looking forward to a great season,” Scott said. “We have a few returning boys this year but also several new members to the team who will be running varsity.”

Junior Owen Moore has been named captain of the team this year and is one of Scott’s key varsity returners and currently the team’s top runner.

“Owen’s ambition and love for the sport are helping to encourage his teammates to persevere over the opponents this season,” Scott said.

Sam Quigley, a sophomore transfer from New Milford High School, is also expected to make an impact as is junior Jayden Cornwall, who has switched from soccer to cross country.

Returning runners expected to contribute to the Spartans are senior Devon Langworthy and Erik Linblom. Sophomore Owen Hibbard is expected to contribute as well.

“Our goals are to come in at the top of the Berkshire League and in the Class S State Championship,” Scott said. “As far as the Berkshire League goes, Terryville and Northwestern will be our biggest competition.”

According to Scott, the team’s preseason has gone very well. The Spartans ran at the Washingtonville Invitational in N.Y. on Saturday and placed 6th overall.