More than 100 students are primed and ready for the annual City High School Cross-Country Championships that are set for Kinsmen Park on Wednesday.
Each of the five local high schools enter teams in the annual fall event, with Superior Heights entering the largest team, followed by Korah.
Superior Heights and Korah tied for top spot in 2010. Superior Heights the city's newest school was in its inaugural season last year.
But it is the Korah Colts that have put up the toughest team year after year.
And Korah coach, Janis Hogan, is again excited about her team's prospects, even though she lost a number of top runners to graduation and at least one to work commitments.
"We're young and we don't have a full boy's squad," she said. "We don't have a junior boy's team. But the kids we have out are working really hard and we're hoping for great things in both boys and girls."
Cam Wilson is helping coach the Korah group this year. He helped Hogan a few years ago.
Three mini-meets and the annual trail trot, sponsored by the Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club, have been held in recent weeks. The meets give competitors and coaches a good idea who the strongest competitors are heading into the city championships.
Hogan says St. Mary's Daniel Turco is the runner to beat in senior boys this year. Hogan has seen Turco over the years and also knows the teen as a badminton competitor.
Turco finished first in the mini-meets and in the trail trot.
"He's made leaps and bounds from last year. He will be the favourite in the senior boys race. He's running really, really well," she said.
Turco, a Grade 12 student at St. Mary's, was fourth last year in 7-km senior boys cross-country event. He attributes his success so far this season to adopting a different attitude toward training and racing.
"From Grade 9 to Grade 12, I've improved a lot. I really started to take running more serious in Grade 10," he said. "I've seen some pretty good results (this year). I'm pretty excited for the city meet."
He has also changed his strategy this season. In the past few years he tried to stay behind, but near, the lead runners. This season he decided to jump in front to set the pace himself. It's a tactic he will employ at the city meet.
"Over these past couple meets, I've felt really good and I've led the whole way and got a pretty good lead. I'm probably just going to try and go as hard as I can the whole time and see how I make out."
Heading into the city championships, Turco is hoping to finish at least in the top three.
"And hopefully to get a personal best time and hopefully end up at NOSSA and possibly make it to OFSSA."
The Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association cross-country championships will be held in the Sault this year on Friday, Oct. 28, when more than 450 athletes from the Sault, North Bay, Sudbury and the North Shore descend on the city.
"I'm excited about that," Turco says.