At first glance, cross country appears to be an individual sport.

However, the Fairfield Prep boys cross country is proving that that is certainly not true. Despite having arguably the best runner in the state in junior Connor Rog, the Jesuits are ranked No. 1 in the state after winning the Wickham Invitational and placing in third at the SCC meet this year and preparing for tomorrow's Class LL meet.

"Connor Rog is one of the best runners in the state," Prep coach Bob Ford Jr. said.

Despite Rog's headline grabbing ability, there is more than just him on this squad. The seven varsity runners each add to the squad, and the fact that five of them are juniors gives the Jesuits confidence for not just this year.

"We're at such a high level this year," Rog said. "We know what to expect for next year."

However, there are two seniors who captain the team and also boost its personality and times. Brian Bennett and Tyler Agostino have the important job of keeping the squad cohesive and also conditioned.

"They're excellent captains," Rog said. "If I'm ever slacking at all, I get the talk from them."

"The only thing that makes us special is that we like each other," Bennett said.

Interestingly enough, the five juniors for the Jesuits all hail from Fairfield, as does Bennett. Rog and Michael Whelan each got into running in middle school and had the idea that they would run for the Jesuits when high school rolled around.

"We knew we were going to go to Prep," Whelan said. "It started off as a sport I could do with friends to a team."

But when they arrived for the Prep team, they found fellow Fairfielders Patrick Corona, Billy Schloth and Rob Salandra also on the team.

"Me and Connor pulled Rob and Pat into it," Schloth said.

The five together has been the perfect combination in a sport where depth is a necessity.

"It's good competition during workouts," Whelan said. "We push each other in practice, we look out for each other."

"We've got four guys that are moving between spots," Agostino said.

Ultimately, the team starts with Rog though. The junior finished in first at the Wickham Invitational, and has won every race in which he's competed, except one. Having that top-runner makes life easier for Ford.

"It's awfully nice to have, at the top, a runner that is going score so few points," Ford said.

But Ford also realizes that without the other six runners on his varsity squad, a top-runner like Rog would be wasted.

"There's five, six, seven guys who all are really invested in it," Ford said. "If your fifth man in a race with 200 kids is in 150th, you can't do very well."

Prep has the perfect mix of talent and drive to finish strong. The Jesuits finished eighth in Class LLs in 2009, but with that experience came a growth opportunity for 2010.

"We looked at the teams around the state and we might have the best first man, and we might have the best fifth man," Ford said. "That's a pretty nice combination to have."

Bennett and Prep realize the formula that it takes to win the class and state tournaments, and the team is excited by the fact that it is on pace to do both.

"The teams that do win have always done it the way we're doing it," Bennett said. "You win Wickham, go undefeated in the dual-meet season, which we did, so we're following the formula so far, which is cool."