NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – In November, a Section 1 cross country team will be crowned champion.

So, “Why not North Salem?”

Head coach Chris Gould said his girls squad, led by junior captain Ava Jolley, has that potential.

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“Why can’t we contend for this Class C section title as a team?” Gould said. “We’ve thrown that down as a goal.”

Individually, Jolley has competed at the Class C State championships in both her freshman and sophomore years. Last year, she finished in second place.

But, her coach said, “Ava is more about the team than anything.” A team’s success depends on the performance of its Top 5 runners. There are only six North Salem girls, but they’re all talented, Gould said.

In addition to Jolley, this year’s roster features a mix of returning runners (senior captain Juliette Intrieri, senior Emma Litchfield, and sophomore Noelle Stratman) and freshmen (Mia Santis and Isabelle Schembri).

On the boys side, North Salem will look to replace Ben Leicht, described by Gould as “one of the best runners in the history of the school.”

It won’t be easy, Gould said. But it should be fun.

Among the 12 runners are five freshmen and five seniors.

“It’s really kind of cool that we have more mature, experienced runners at the varsity level and some younger guys who are going to be able to learn from the experienced guys,” Gould said.

When it comes to team goals, Gould just wants his runners to put in the work and improve.

“Section 1 is one of the most competitive sections,” Gould said. “If you make it to the state meet, you’ve really had a great season. We’ve got some heavy-duty competition. It’s hard to ask freshmen boys to get up that caliber.”

The 2019 season will be Gould’s fourth year at North Salem, but his first as head coach. He replaced Nick Kowgios, who wanted more time to watch his son run for Gettysburg College.

His strategy, which focuses on core strength, is called “peaking.”

“When you’re training for something, you want to peak at the right time,” Gould said. “My program is designed to peak at the end of the season.”

The end of the season, of course, is the Section 1 meet, held at the notoriously hilly Bowdoin Park, in Wappingers Falls. With that in mind, his team spends a lot of time training on hills.

“You can’t handle it unless you’ve done it,” Gould said.

The first meet of the year will be the Big Red Invitational, held Saturday, Sept. 7, at Somers High School.