Change is in the air for the Santa Barbara City College cross-country program, from the coach to most of the roster.

“Seventeen of our 21 runners are new, and most have limited experience,” said Scott Fickerson, who takes the reins of the men’s and women’s teams after seven years as Cal Lutheran’s coach. “Our goal is for both teams to be in the top six and qualify for the Southern Cal Championships.”

Conner Mellon is one of the few returners on the men’s side, and Fickerson expects him to lead the way, along with Chris Costanzo and Wesley Korpela. On the women’s side, he’s counting on Paige Colijn, Sarah Gustavsson and Ivana Sanchez.

The Vaqueros open their season Friday at the Ventura Invitational. The SBCC Invitational is slated for Leadbetter Beach on Oct. 18.

“The keys to success will be patience and developing our fitness during the course of the season in order to be ready for the WSC Championships and So Cal Championships,” Fickerson said. “We need to also come together as a team and learn to race well as a team. I don’t expect us to have any significant high finishers, so our best chance of success will be to pack very well and get our numbers in front of the other teams’ No. 4 and 5 runners.

“It is my hope that someone emerges from the pack as their fitness grows and runs beyond expectations to give us that extra little push that we need at the end.”

Dave Loveton is Santa Barbara City College‘s sports information specialist.