Eleanor Roosevelt cross-country coach Desmond Dunham has his boys' and girls' cross-country teams aiming high, and, as they've learned in the past year, there's no reason for the Raiders to doubt him.
A year ago, Dunham constantly told his girls' team that it had the talent to be a contender at the Maryland 4A state championship meet, an improbable task for a Prince George's County team going against heavy favorite Broadneck.
At the meet, the Raiders proved Dunham right, finishing a close second with 65 points, just behind Broadneck's 59.
"All year Coach Dunham was telling us, 'You can do this, you can place top two,' " sophomore Jennifer Redman said. "And we said, 'Okay, Coach Dunham.' At first we didn't believe him, but then we just got out there and ran and had fun, and we did it."
This season, both Roosevelt squads have their sights set on some lofty goals. The Roosevelt girls look to once again be state contenders, as does the emerging boys' team. Additionally, the team would like to earn a berth at the new Nike team meet, a 20-team national championship race in Oregon at the end of the high school season.
The girls' squad is led by Redman, who was 10th in the state last season, senior Nayda Pirela (22nd) and sophomore Tameka Jameson (25th). Also back for the Raiders are senior Tunisia Milner, sophomore All-Met track standout Takecia Jameson and sophomore Christine Danielson.
New talent has arrived, too, in the form of freshman Dominique Lockhart, who finished fourth last weekend at the Spiked Shoe Invitational meet at Penn State. The Raiders took second overall at the 15-team regional meet.
A year ago, Roosevelt had the top six girls' runners at the Prince George's County championship meet.
"I definitely think we're in a position on paper to have another good season," Dunham said. "We can go out and have a good season if we keep working hard."
"I think this summer we put in the work to do better at the national level," Redman said. "But we still have work to do. . . . Every time we work out we have that mindset that we have to work hard to make it to a high level, because every team we're trying to go against is working hard."
The boys finished 14th in the state last year, but they appear to be poised to emerge like last year's girls' team. Junior Mikias Gelagle has spent the past year in training and he has seen his times drop by more than two minutes over five kilometers.
He is joined by sophomore Kelli Thibou, senior Anthony Walker, senior Romaine McKay and sophomore David Lockhart.
At the Spiked Shoe meet, Gelagle captured first place in 16 minutes 37 seconds on a challenging five-kilometer course, and the Raiders cruised to the team victory.
"I've been training all summer with Coach Dunham and my [training] partners," Gelagle said. "We've all been pushing each other a lot."