There is a tradition of high finishes at the state meet that goes along with the cross country program at Jefferson City High School.
But the Jays have missed out on qualifying for the meet in two of the last three seasons.
"A little disappointed is a massive understatement there," Jefferson City head coach Brett Phillips said. "I think we had a really good summer. Our boys team didn't make the state meet, so it isn't like we're going to be on anybody's radar."
When the Jays open the season at 9 a.m. today at Cole County Park in the Jim Marshall Invitational, the team will have just one runner who has experience at the state meet.
Phillips said that's something that has to change for a school with 12 top-four finishes at the state meet.
"There's a lot of talk about proving ourselves, redeeming ourselves as a team," Phillips said. "That's the theme of it. Saying it's one thing, doing it's another."
This year's group is led at the front by seniors Lucas Theroff, Jack Gamble and Will Pierce.
Others likely to see varsity time include sophomores Courtney Fitch and Saxon Teubner and freshman Jackson Schwartz.
Runners in the mix include freshmen Dylan Fischer and Jayden Walker, along with sophomore Austin Baker and senior Hampton Waggoner.
Phillips said he was happy with the miles some of his runners put in this summer. Some exceeded 50 miles per week.
"It's not like we haven't had anybody do that before, we have," Phillips said. "But I just think that's kind of key for us for becoming the type of team we want to be, which is upper-half state meet team, contending for the trophies. That's what this community demands and that's what this program demands," Phillips said.
Phillips said he thinks this team has the potential to be a better squad this year and hopes it can surprise some teams.
"There is no one in the state going to be real worried about us," Phillips said. "That's a fact, on the boys side."
Things are a little different for the Lady Jays.
Jefferson City, which won its sectional race last season, returns four runners who competed at the state meet last season.
The good part for Phillips is he thinks this year's team could be even better.
"There's more competition," Phillips said. "We're just a better team. We've had kids emerge. We have the same top kids back and we've had kids who've emerged."
Jefferson City is led by junior Kaley Ruff, a two-time all-state performer who finished 13th at the state meet last season.
Other key runners back for Jefferson City include junior Tori Bonnot and senior Emily Deeken.
Phillips said he has been impressed in the offseason by sophomore Lindsey Biesemeyer.
"Biesmeyer has taken a humoungous step from being a ninth, 10th runner," Phillips said. "... She's a front-pack type of kid."
Also in the mix for varsity spots are sophomores Brenna Duncan and Natalie Vance, along with seniors Allison Muenks and Madison Hart.
"We had a poor state meet," Phillips said. "The team we beat at sectionals (Rock Bridge) was fifth at the state meet. Nothing says we should have beaten them at the state meet, they are a (heck) of a team, but we should have been higher than 11th."
Phillips said he thinks this team has the making to improve up last year's finish.
"The way things look we seem to be shaping up to be a stronger team," Phillips said. "... We have had more varsity kids run more miles this summer than the previous three. We look stronger right now."