Athletes may graduate and move on, but program tradition and process should be maintained.

It’s safe to say that is the ultimate goal for any successful high school program.

For the Hudson boys cross country team, that fits its program to a T.

Sixth-year head coach Mark McConnell knows this fall is a building one for the two-time Division I state champions as five key senior graduates will be sorely missed.

However, a building season doesn’t mean the Explorers won’t be feared come late in the season.

It’s not easy to go undefeated against conference opponents, win a Suburban League National Conference title, snag district and regional team championships and then go on and capture a state crown for the second year in a row.

Throw in a 2016 Ohio runner-up showing and it conveys a message that Hudson isn’t going away despite the heavy graduation losses.

McConnell believes that team tradition does not graduate.

Seemingly overnight, the Explorers always seem to unearth talent to be successful in cross country.

"This year is going to be very exciting," McConnell said. "We lost a lot of guys from last year and this team is going to look a lot different."

Indeed.

The list of graduates look like a ring of honor.

They are Adam Beucler (13th in Ohio in 2018), who is no running for Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina; Evan Manley (14th in Ohio and the Youngstown regional champ), who is now running for the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York; Jacob Russo (27th in Ohio), who is running for the University of Connecticut; Lucas Lay and Kenny McCaughey.

McConnell knows that newcomers to the lineup don’t just surface immediately. Offseason work, progress during the regular season and weekly workouts build the foundation for team depth.

"I am interested to see how the season goes," McConnell said. "Our goal is to go back to states again and I think we could surprise some people with new varsity runners this year."

McConnell said top returnees are seniors Andrew Goldslager, Luke Good, Michael Von Ville and Ethan Smith; juniors Jack Root and Gabe Shale; and sophomores Titan Casey, Kyle Betz and Ben Romano.

McConnell has solid balance on another large roster of 60-plus runners.

Goldslager is Hudson’s top returning runner after finishing 64th at the 2018 state meet.

According to McConnell, the top newcomer is freshman Colin LaVan.

"We are still a strong team with over 60 members and I like our JV [junior varsity] team strength again this coming season," McConnell said.

McConnell’s assistants are Thom Snow and Eric Riesterer.

As for the Suburban League National Conference race, the top priority will not change.

"We are hoping to repeat as league champions," McConnell said.

The Explorers are scheduled to open their 2019 season at the GlenOak Golden Eagle Invitational Saturday in Canton. The race is set to begin at 9:30 a.m.