The Defending Class MM state champion Darien High School boys' cross country team could enter the 2010 season feeling the pressure to repeat that feat at the L level after being bumped up to the larger class size.

The team members could be pressing while thinking about another late-fall run to the top and how they'll get there after three of the top seven and five of the top 10 runners graduated.

But this year's Blue Wave runners aren't thinking about it very much.

"We just look at it like we've never won a state championship," senior captain David Watson said. "If we go in with the same attitude as we did last year we'll end up with a fine year."

"We just want to live up to our potential," head coach Tyson Kaczmarek said of the outlook for 2010. "It's (trying to win another state title) not even a thought. We're a different team -- we take it one race at a time."

The team's captains, along with Watson, are John Conley and Matt Gentile. The trio will look to lead a pack of promising young runners and veterans back into title contention.

Gone from a year ago, as a result of graduation -- among others -- is the team's top runner, Jake McCauley, No. 3 runner Alex Reynoso and No. 4 runner William Sandberg. McCauley and Reynoso were both All-FCIAC First Team and All-State honorees in 2009 and all three will be missed in, certainly. McCauley was considered one of the most reliable three-season long-distance runners Darien had seen in a long time.

Among the returnees in that top handful are Conley, an All-FCIAC honoree who was the team's No. 2 man last fall, junior Charlie Baird, Watson, and junior Michael Johnston. Conley is now expected to be the team's fastest finisher and is followed by Baird and Watson in the top three grouping. Another five runners all stand to vie for top-seven finishes, according to Kaczmarek. Gentile, juniors Michael Coe, Johnston and Eli Converse, and sophomore Ryan Mahoney should all be in contention for the top seven spots.

Darien will have some new state championship competition thanks to the class size change. Hand of Madison, New Milford, Bristol Central, and familiar foes from the FCIAC, Fairfield Ludlowe and New Canaan, are all schools that could be among those vying for a Class L title this fall, Kaczmarek speculates.

"I think we'll be right in the mix," he added.

In addition to shooting for state-level success, the Wave runners are striving to again be a top team in the FCIAC.

"I think we'll be a top-five program in the league again," Kaczmarek said.

Perennial power Danbury, along with Staples of Westport, New Canaan and Fairfield Ludlowe are among the best teams in the conference, the coach said. He added that Ridgefield and Trumbull are also likely to be good teams.

The Darien coach said that the team has some runners who may be inexperienced at the varsity level but that they have "big race experience" from last year's indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.

"They've had a lot of experience and I'm sure they'll step up," Watson said.