Denton attributes some of this to his retirement from teaching, which has lessened his connection to the students. However, those who turned out this fall have been practicing hard -- although the heat of mid-August had an impact.
"We weren't doing the distance work we'd like," Denton explained. "Instead we were doing the sprint stuff."
One big addition for the Owls is sophomore Ben Sporleder, a transfer who competed for Maryville in last year's Class 2, District 8 meet at Kansas City.
"He looks very promising," Denton said following Sporleder's 18:46 time trial. "He didn't have anybody close to him."
That may not have been the case had junior Zach Glassmaker not been hurting. A 2010 all-NCMC middle distance runner, injuries have hampered the younger brother of former Marshall all-stater Jeremy, but he keeps working.
"He put in a lot of miles in the summer," Denton said. When he's back to full strength, "I think he's going to be wonderful."
Sophomore Zach Petzoldt is one of three returning starters for the Owls.
"He took on the challenge of running 500 miles between seasons," Denton noted. "It's paid off."
Also back are senior Roger Choate and junior James Elfrink, who have both sliced a minute off last year's time-trial marks. Senior Aaron Kerksiek is in his fourth year with the program and is joined by sophomore Caleb Jarvis and freshman Logan Davis.
Marshall lost four seniors, three of whom were part of its state-qualifying squad in 2009. The only veteran is junior Rozana Avalos, whose best finish last year was eighth place at Smith-Cotton. She's knocked off nearly a minute-and-a-half off her time trial of last year.
"She's looking real good," Denton said. "She's setting some high goals for herself."
Junior Elizabeth Borges saw some JV action a year ago, while junior Lydia Kays, sophomore Abigail Henke and freshman Bethany Choate -- Roger's sister -- is new to the team.
Obviously, with such a young squad, making gradually gains during the course of competition this season will be the objective.
"One of my major goals each your is to see that improvement," Denton explained. "We hope to see them drop their course times down."