Casey Blevins and Danielle Jones are familiar with Eastern New Mexico University's cross country program, having run in it only a couple of years ago.
With coach Mike Harney leaving just before the season starter, Blevins and Jones have been named men's and women's interim head coaches, respectively, for the program. Josh Browning, another recent ENMU alum, will serve as an assistant in cross country and then be assisted by Blevins and Jones in track — unless the school fills the Harney vacancy permanently in the interim.
The ENMU men are the defending Lone Star Conference and Southwest Region champions, and Blevins is confident the Greyhounds can pick up right where they left off. They were picked first in the LSC preseason poll.
"From what I've seen so far, the athletes have all come in in good shape," Blevins said. "I have all the confidence in their ability."
The Hounds lost two of their top runners from last year in Tallum Kipruto and Mohamed Noor, but still should have a deep team.
"The majority of the kids are returning," said Blevins, now a grad student at ENMU after graduating in December 2010. "Some of the new recruits coming in should help out."
Returnees include seniors Isaiah Samoei of Eldoret, Kenya and Jacob Lozano of Hobbs, junior Patrick Lueras of Los Lunas, sophomore Tyler Saiz of Albuquerque. Blevins expects transfers Kevin Roa of Salinas, Calif., and Joseph McCalf of Norfolk, Neb., to help.
The Zias are looking to move up after finishing fifth in last year's LSC meet.
ENMU lost top runner Nicki Reid from last year, but returns most everyone else.
"We have a great group of girls, and I think they're going to do an awesome job," said Jones, also a grad student at ENMU.
Junior Adrienne Montoya of Estancia is the top returning runner. Freshman Amber Saiz of Belen could have a big impact, Jones said.
"The girls decided that one of their goals w as to finish in the top three in the conference," she said. "I definitely think they're capable of that."
August: 31 — at UNM Lobo Invitational, 7:30 p.m.
September: 14 — at Texas Tech Invitational; 15 — at Missouri Southern; 29 — at Oklahoma State Jamboree.
October: 6 — at South Plains College; 20 — LSC meet at Cameron.