It took more than a year of prodding by a teacher and coach to persuade David Anderson to join the cross-country team at Piccowaxen Middle School as an eighth-grader.

Four years later, Anderson not only begins his senior year at La Plata High as one of the top returning male runners in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, but he enjoys the training aspects of the sport.

"I remember that I really didn't want to run, but finally I gave in and I found some success," Anderson said.

Anderson comes back to the Warriors as a two-year captain and the team's top returning performer. Last year, he finished seventh in the SMAC with a time of 16 minutes 43 seconds, the best time by a non-senior. He finished eighth in the 3A South Region and captured 19th overall in Maryland 3A.

During the indoor track season, Anderson was the SMAC champion in the 500 and third in the 800. He earned all-state honors after finishing sixth in 3A/2A in the 500.

"I think he'll do very well," La Plata Coach Richard Williams said. "He's a hard worker."

The hard work also translates off the track: Anderson serves as president of the school's National Honor Society. But it is the work with the cross-country team that consumes a lot of his time. He helped set up the team's Web site, which has content devoted to the team's activities.

"It's a daily thing," Anderson said. "You've got to enjoy what you do, especially when you've got no one to train with except going against the clock."

This fall, Anderson will again be one of the leaders as the Warriors attempt to repeat their team success. The Warriors won the SMAC by five points and captured the region title by seven points.

Anderson said he is excited about the team's prospects this season, but he misses running with some of his recently graduated teammates.

The Warriors had four of the top 15 runners in the SMAC last year, including All-Extra selections Tyler Baumler and Travis Wray, both of whom graduated.

"That's why you keep going, so that you can hope to achieve what they did," Anderson said. "I miss running with them, you'd rather that they were here, but it's okay."

As it is, Anderson is now in the role of leading an inexperienced but talented team. Seniors Kevin Hammond and Shane Seremet and junior Nijee McWillis will be back, but there also are younger runners that Anderson has to help develop.

"We've got a lot of up-and-coming guys," Anderson said. But, "sometimes you have to get them into shape. They're not used to running [through pain], or it may be hot, so you've really got to push them."

The boys' team went 9-1 in dual meets, losing only to Patuxent, but La Plata swept through the post-season by beating Patuxent in the SMAC and regional championships. Anderson said the goal this year is to once again perform strongly in the SMAC dual meets and qualify for the state meet as a team.

Anderson said a perfect dual-meet season is a big goal for the team, especially considering that the girls' team went undefeated.

"We don't hear the end of it from them," Anderson said. "I want the team to be the top in the SMAC, to go 10-0 and then win SMAC and regionals. . . . The individual achievements are nice, but it's not the most important thing for me. I want to see our team succeed."

"I want the team to be the top in the SMAC, to go 10-0 and then win SMAC and regionals," says Anderson, of La Plata. David Anderson, right, one of the top returning male runners in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, talks with Warriors teammate Luke Mauck.