TRAVERSE CITY — Lisa Taylor starts her 20th season as coach of Traverse City Central girls cross country with a team ranked 20th nationally in a pre-season poll by XC Nation.
Practice officially starts in 10 days.
Central is one of five Michigan teams ranked in the top 25. Saline checks in at No. 2, Birmingham Seaholm at No. 9, Northville at No. 21 and Grosse Pointe South at No. 24.
"Michigan is recognized nationally as a powerhouse state," Taylor said. "Last year's end of season rankings, and this year's pre-season rankings are good indicators of the quality of the teams in this state."
The Trojans finished fourth last November in the Division 1 state finals behind Seaholm, Grosse Pointe South and Saline. Seaholm ended No. 1 in the national rankings, South No. 3 and Saline No. 5.
Saline returns its top six runners. So does Traverse City, which is why optimism is running high.
"The girls are excited and proud (of the ranking)," Taylor said. "But they know rankings don't always pan out for all teams. When they heard it, they had an attitude of 'now it's really time to work for that presence.'"
So the Trojans are out to prove the ranking is justified.
"It's motivating our team to push harder," junior Ashley Ko said.
Need evidence? The Trojans cranked up the intensity of their summer training program, running higher mileage and at a faster base training pace. The summer program has also included weight training two nights a week.
"We've been really dedicated to summer training," senior co-captain Joy Reist said. "It's been more intense (than past years). We're pumped. We're excited to see what happens."
The Trojans first meet will be the Benzie Central Invitational on Aug. 24.
"We want to come out of the gate hard," Taylor said. "When you go in ranked, you don't want to slip into oblivion with a bad first performance."