Cloud County men's cross country boasts a deep, talented mix for 2018

The 2018 Cloud County men's cross country team. Not pictured: Paseka Mokubung and Kwanele Mthembu
The 2018 Cloud County men's cross country team. Not pictured: Paseka Mokubung and Kwanele Mthembu
CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College men's cross country team enters 2018 with high hopes of making waves in the Region VI and nationally, thanks to a deep and talented roster that rivals any Cloud County has seen this decade.
"It's pretty rare to be excited about the potential of a brand new team when you only have two returners, but I think this is probably the deepest team we've had, certainly in my six years here, but maybe in the last 10-15 years," said Cloud County head coach, Drew Mahin. "I really like the mix we have of in-state Kansas kids, some out of state kids, and a group of 4-5 international guys who should all have really strong seasons."
In total, the T-Birds will field a roster of 14 guys, led by sophomore returners Burke Deters and Jeremy Ragsdale. Freshman Thom Reynders will also be a leadership presence on the team after competing in track last spring for Cloud County.
The T-Birds are set to get their season underway on August 31st when they travel to Hutchinson for the annual Terry Masterson Twilight Classic, scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. that Friday.
With less than a week before the opener, Mahin said many spots are still up for grabs between his three returners and a talented crop of newcomers such as Kansas runners Anton ReevesMason HarrodLucas Keil and Nicholas Corea; Texas native Ricky CuvillierAblel Gebreselase from Baltimore; and star-studded international runners Kenyi Santino,Saba KhvichavaPaseka MokubungDennis Kiptoo and Kwanele Mthembu.
Santino, a South Sudan Olympian at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and Khvichava are two runners who have caught the eye of Mahin and expected to lead the lineup. 
Khvichava holds national records at the senior level in the country Georgia for the 800-meter, 3,000-meter, 3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000-meter run, while Santino is South Sudan's national record holder in the 1,500-meter and 800-meter run.
"We've had two new guys stand out so far in Kenyi and Saba," Mahin said. "Both these guys have represented their countries well at the national level and have some special track times. We will see how those translate to running 8,000-meter cross country event lengths."
How their roster adjusts to the demands of the 8,000-meter distance will be the biggest wildcard for the T-Birds over the course of their six-meet regular season, and ultimately at the region and national level.
If the transition goes smoothly, Mahin is optimistic about what kind of noise the T-Birds can make when the Region VI/KJCCC Championships (Oct. 27) and the NJCAA Cross Country Championships (November 10) roll around.
"As long as we stay away from injuries, we should be challenging for a Region VI and KJCCC West conference championship, and hopefully a top-5 national program," Mahin said. "I think we're going to have a really strong team that can go nine deep and that's what is going to make this team a lot of fun to work with. Everyone will know someone else is gunning for their spot and they'll have to bring it every week."