CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham girls cross-country team was sort of stuck in third gear last fall with third-place finishes at the conference meet, county meet and state sectionals.

"Our goal is to win one of those," Chatham coach Julie Guerriero said.

It's still early, but so far senior Alex Frenzel has come into training as the top runner, posting a time that was 30 seconds faster than she had at this time last year. Behind her are rising juniors Abbie Bigham and Julie Hamilton, who feed off each other during races.

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"There are so many runners out there, it's good to have someone on your own team pushing you," Bigham said.

Hamilton usually follows Bigham's lead since she's a fast starter. Hamilton is known for her strong finishes.

"We have different strengths," Hamilton said. "Abbie is really good in the beginning of the race, so I try to stay with her."

Bigham is always on the lookout for Hamilton down the stretch.

"She has a good finish, so if I see her, I back off at the end," Bigham said. "All the seniors are gone and it feels a lot different being the upperclassmen now. We're not freshmen anymore."

Other than her top three of Frenzel, Bigham and Hamilton, the field is wide open for others to step into the top seven.  

Frenzel's senior classmates include Anya Raadam, Erin Tencic, Grace Malanga and Tracy Delade.

The Lady Cougars have talent coming up in the junior class as well, with Keren Hynes, Margaret Harrigan and Yulan Zhang. Two more juniors, Olivia McGeough and Sara Irish, are out for the first time after making the switch from soccer.