The Olathe High School cross country team’s new head coach, Rob Miller, may be in different territory as the leader of the Pirates program, but he’s had recent history teaching the sport in Montrose County.

Miller was the middle school cross country coach for the past few years before taking his current position along with new assistant coach Aaron Wilcox.

Heading into this season, Miller has high hopes for the team, saying his mission is for the boys XC team to qualify for state.

“That’s the goal,” he said. “I think we have the team to do that.”

To make it to the state meet, runners can quality at regionals either individually, by placing in the top 15, or as a team if it cracks the top 4.

The Pirates have one runner in particular who’s been to the state tournament in senior Layton McLaughlin. He’s qualified for the last two seasons: first as part of the boys team his sophomore year, and then last year when he was the only Olathe athlete that went.

Miller said he believes McLaughlin has the chance as part of a team, or to crack the top 15 individually.

But McLaughlin hasn’t been the only standout so far this season. Miller praised his roster’s other senior, Jose Almanza, adding his abilities can help push the team to state.

On the girls side, Olathe has two runners competing this year in sophomores Cheyanne Germann and Raquel Lovato. Miller said even though the girls don’t have a full team this year, he believes Germann has a chance to qualify for state individually.

Meanwhile, Lovato is new to cross country, which means she’s still learning the ropes.

But for all the talk of the runners’ abilities, Miller said their best asset is their character. He said that during a recent team dinner they all laughed and enjoyed their time together.

“This is a great group of kids,” Miller said. “They’re really polite.”

Up next, Olathe will compete in the Hotchkiss Invite on Saturday.

Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.

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