Of the six runners the Dodge City Community College Conquistadors men’s cross country roster, two of them are listed as from Dodge City, and one is from South Gray. On the Women’s side, 10 runners make up the total roster, with four listed from Dodge City, one from South Gray and one from Kinsley.

“We’re excited for those local kids,” Conquistador head coach Cole Ballard said.

Among them on the women’s side are talented newcomers such as Luz Lopez, who ran at Dodge City High School last year, and Emily Salmans who ran at South Gray.

Ballard is also the Conquistadors’ head Track and Field coach.

“Obviously we’re excited about Emily Salmans out of South Gray on the track end of it, very talented young lady and local kid,” Ballard said. “Local kids with the talent level that she has are imperative that we get here and train here and make better here and I think she’ll be really good for us and we’re excited to have Emily.”

She’s just one of five freshmen on the women’s side this year. The team also returns some strong sophomores, including Tayler Hays from Eaton, Colorado, who finished first among Conquistador runners at last year’s Fort Hays State meet.

On the men’s side, the Conquistadors have made some key signings as well.

“A big transfer and (someone who is) gonna be a significant help in terms of talent and in terms of experience and in terms of moving us forward in our men’s cross country program will be Marcelo Cruz,” Ballard said.

Cruz finished fourth overall at the 2016 6A State Cross Country meet while running for Dodge City High School. He transfers in, Ballard said, from Fort Hays State.

“We’re fortunate to have him I can tell you that,” Ballard said.

The Conqs also bring in Brett Koehn who formerly ran for South Gray High School and who finished 41st overall at last year’s 1A State Cross Country meet.

“Brett’s a young man with a great deal of God-given length,” Ballard said. “I think Brett is one of those kids that’s gonna get stronger and gonna get faster as he goes into his collegiate years, and so I’m excited for that. I think certainly his best days of running are ahead of him.”

The talent additions to the Conquistadors will be important for a men’s team that finished ninth overall at the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Region VI meet last year, and a women’s team that finished sixth in their Region VI meet.

“With that being said, my expectation, this program’s expectation, the athletic department’s expectation is we need to be better,” Ballard said. “We need to be better than where we finished last year. I think we can do that. We have the pieces. We are thin in terms of numbers, but I think we are in a position from a talent standpoint to perform better at the region level.”

The Conquistador cross country teams start their season Aug. 31 when they go to Hutchinson to race in the Terry Masterson Twilight event. Start time is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.