The question posed was this: How many cross country teams could lose their No. 2 returning runner to injury and still hope to defend a state title.
Tri-Cities Prep coach Scott Larson hopes the answer is at least one.
The Jaguars are the consensus favorites to repeat as the 2B/1B boys champions at the state meet Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. That mantle comes not despite the loss of senior Nick Tudor early in the season (he finished 10th at state last year) but because of how well the TC Prep runners have moved up and moved on.
"We just focus on two things," Larson said. "One, quality workouts: Just go out and do what's expected; and then the second one is consistency with race performance. You have those two things, and it translates to a good state performance."
Nick Lumetta returns as the team's top runner, and fellow senior Nick Fong has been consistent all season. But Larson pointed to the performances of his son, Skyler Larson, who moved into Tudor's No. 2 spot, and Adam Noorani as big boosts to the team.
Noorani has made a big step up, cutting about 30 seconds of his time from last year when Prep won the Connell Invite earlier this year competing against bigger 2A and 1A schools.
"I think that goes to our program," Scott Larson said. "The focus is on the entire team, from the No. 1 runners to the No. 22 boy. They really focus on personal goals, and when they come out and put in quality workouts, that makes sure that every person" excels.
That has carried over to the girls team, which became the first Tri-Cities Prep girls program to qualify for a state event.
Fresh faces: Some of the Mid-Columbia's state contingent practically learned to run before they could walk, tackling the sport at a young age.
Others came a little later.
Richland sophomore Lauren Perry was playing volleyball last fall, but a strong track showing last spring convinced her running was her future.
Southridge senior Rachel Dahl, who will be running her second state race this weekend after finishing 19th last year, had never run distance before her sophomore season.
"In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I started running," she said. "And in July, August, it was tough to run a mile without stopping. It's amazing how quickly if you train, how fast your body attunes."
It wasn't that Dahl couldn't run a mile -- actually, always loved running in gym class. It was just tough getting herself motivated to run on her own.
"I wasn't great at it," she said, "but I always loved it."