While the numbers are up for the Hastings boys and girls Nordic ski teams, the experience is down.
That said, coach John Dewall is excited about the 30 kids who are out for the team. That's about twice as many athletes who were out for last year's teams, Dewall said.
The difference with last year, though, was that the Raiders had some returning experience. This year, that cupboard is mostly bare. Still, Dewall is excited to see what this year's kids can do.
"We've had a lot of families come through the program," Dewall said. "Last year, Wyatt Behrens was the last one of those families to come through - we're talking about the families who have skied for years. We're kind of out of that right now, so what we're doing is really trying to rebuild the program. That just means recruiting kids.
"We have some kids out who have never done this before. We're trying to get them to see the foundation of Nordic skiing as a varsity sport, and also a lifetime sport they can do forever."
Thus far, Dewall has been successful with those recruiting efforts. It probably doesn't hurt that he's the cross country running coach during the fall and has good relationships with distance guys and girls already.
The lone senior on the Hastings boys roster is Sean Eglington.
"He's a good skier, and a good leader," Dewall said. "He adds some good leadership to our team. We're looking for him to improve from where he ended up last year."
Four relative newcomers join the team having just spent the fall with Dewall on the cross country team.
They are Joe Rabaey, Lucas Herman, Nick Johnson and James Harper.
"There's some talent there," Dewall said. "They just haven't done the sport yet. Sean obviously has, but those other guys, once they learn the sport, it could be fun working with them."
Sarah Peterson will be the team's strongest skier this winter.
"She was training out in Yellowstone last week," Dewall said. "She has the potential to be phenomenal. She has great technique. We're looking for a lot of great things from her."
Peterson is a junior.
"She could be very, very good," Dewall said.
Makaila England and Nicole Froehling are out this winter. Both were on the cross country team this fall.
Kelsey Richards is a junior who Dewall recruited from his classroom.
Rachel Peterson is an eighth-grader with promise, Dewall said
Dewall has a simple goal for this year's team.
"Our goal is to improve each meet," he said. "We want to get these kids to learn how to ski both disciplines. We just need some early snow to help us make that happen. We want to teach these kids how to ski and improve week by week."
The state meet is a possibility for a few athletes, too, Dewall said.
Expect to see Stillwater and Forest Lake atop the Suburban East Conference standings, he said.