The drive for five is on for Laramie Plainsmen cross country, while the Lady Plainsmen seek the top of the mountain with a young team.

Enter his ninth season at the helm of the program, Greg Schabron has built Laramie into a perennial contender. The squad’s depth is apparent with 54 members of the squad and 12 of them are returning letter winners.

Schabron says their numbers have been crucial.

“The depth on the girl’s side is amazing compared to last year… I think we’ve got a lot of the component’s to put together a strong girls and guys team.”

Coming off their fourth consecutive class 4A state title, the Laramie Plainsmen are favored again, even without two-time defending champ Chris Henry. He’s moved on to the University of Wyoming. Last season, LHS won every competition, but one on their slate.

This year’s squad returns three all-state performers, and they are all juniors. Philip Henry, Liam McInroy and Albert Steiner. There’s even some sleepers, who haven’t been varsity until now, that Schabron is confident will keep them as the team to beat.

Schabron said, “A good majority of the guys have been through the ringer once, if not twice, before, so they’ve set up their expectations for top tier of the state.”

The Lady Plainsmen are led by returning all-conference honorees Maria Smith-Lopez and Kyleigh Bingham. The LHS girls are defending conference champs and also finished in the top three in five of their eight total meets a year ago. The twist this season will be the impact of freshman, and it’ll be felt right away.

Schabron realizes the Lady Plainsmen have high aspirations, as well.

“They’re looking to come back to top two or three in the state, if not higher. The one variable is obviously Jackson, who moved up, and they had a tremendous girls’ team last year.”

Schabron also says the team just has fun and takes care of each other.

“They’re really passionate about looking out for each other, so I think that takes the focus away from the pressure. It’s not me putting pressure on them, it’s just the previous years of success, and they don’t want to let the Laramie community down at that point.”

The 2016 season started with success last Friday on Casper Mountain. The Plainsmen won the Kelly Walsh Beartrap Cross Country Meet, while the Lady Plainsmen took second behind Jackson.

The LHS boy’s placed their five runners in the top 15. Henry came in second followed by McInroy in third to lead the squad. Laramie scored 42 points and won by 19 over Jackson.

The ladies scored 50 points and were 21 behind the Lady Broncs. Three freshman placed in the top nine led by Abigail Whitman in fifth place.

Laramie High School cross country returns to action Friday at the Rawlins Invite.