One year ago, the .
The Pirates lost four top runners to graduation from that team and could face challenges in their own league from Nanuet and Tappan Zee. Tullyrunners.com's preseason rankings for New York State girls has Nanuet ahead of Pearl River. The site's individual girls cross country rankings can be found here.
Not that you will hear long-time Head Coach Dan Doherty lower expectations.
"Our goal is always to win every meet that we run at," Doherty said. "We lost a lot to graduation, but these girls are working very hard and hopefully good things will result from it."
Pearl River showed already showed it is once again capable of good things Saturday, winning the team competition at the 7th Annual Rob Breen Cross Country Invitational at Clove Lake State Park in Staten Island.
Junior Kelly Hayes won the individual competition with a time of 19:38.2, breaking Samantha Stadt's school record for the course by seven seconds. Laura Cooper finished third and Emma Haley was fifth.
The depth of Pearl River's program showed as well. The Sara Rotundo won and the Pirates finished second as a team in the junior varsity race, but Pearl River's most dominant performance came in the freshman competition, taking the top seven places and 10 of the first 11, including Claire Brennan's victory.
Doherty listed Rotundo along with Catherine Rayward, Ailish Durcan, Kaitlyn Harding and Kaitlin O'Riordan as newcomers who could make an immediate impact this season. Rayward was 12th in the varsity race Saturday and O'Riordan was 23rd.
Hayes, 2nd-team all-state and first-team all-county selection a year ago, is the most accomplished of the Pirates' returning runners. Cooper, Haley and Brianne Garvey were all third-team all-county picks in 2011.
All should help Pearl River battle for another section championship in 2012. Doherty said that Somers is one of the top challengers along with Nanuet and Tappan Zee. For more on his preseason views, check out Doherty's preseason preview for New York State girls cross country.