Just how good is the Coatesville boys' track team?

When asked, Carl Smith hesitated, then modestly said it was the best he'd had in the six years since he succeeded Red Raiders legend Harry Lewis as coach.

It's easy to see why.

Coatesville ran through the Ches-Mont League dual-meet season with a 7-0 mark and, based on its first day of competition Wednesday in the league championships at Coatesville, will wrap up its fifth straight league title. The championship is based on the dual-meet season and the league meet.

"The kids are extremely competitive. They enjoy competing," the soft-spoken Smith said, trying to explain his team's success.

His words don't begin to describe the Red Raiders.

As one newspaper headline boldly called Coatesville: Reservoir of talent.

Blessed with tremendous depth in virtually every area, Coatesville qualified 19 competitors for the District 1 Class AAA meet Friday and Saturday even before the Ches-Mont meet.

In two events, the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, the Raiders have three qualifiers, the maximum allowed.

Asked how well he sees his team doing at the district meet - which will be run on the Red Raiders' home turf - Smith was almost evasive. Certainly, Coatesville will be among the favorites. Districts are the next step to the PIAA championships.

"We'll have to see how that shakes out," he said. "Districts are so competitive. It takes good fortune and the guys being at the top of their game."

The Red Raiders are certainly at the top of their game, and have experienced good fortune in the last few weeks.

The distance-medley relay team of Sean Ward, Chris Kline and twins Owen and Kyle Dawson won the high school Championship of America gold medal last month at the Penn Relays with a time of 10 minutes, 8.51 seconds.

Kyle Dawson placed third at the PIAA cross-country championships and eighth at the Nike team nationals, in which Coatesville took the gold.

Coatesville also won the Ches-Mont 4x400 relay at the Penn Relays.

Noted for its sprinters over the years, Coatesville has shown its most formidable strength in the distance races this season.

"Our distance program is clicking on all cylinders," Smith said.

To give you an idea of how many cylinders, consider that Kyle Dawson finished the Ches-Mont 3,200 in 9:17.9 to wipe out a league record - 9:25.9 by West Chester East's Ken Glah - that had stood since 1982.

Glah later became one of the world's top triathlon competitors.

Ward, who is headed to La Salle University, also surpassed Glah's mark, but had to settle for second place.

"My goal was 9:10 or faster," said Kyle Dawson, who is hoping to get under nine minutes, something no scholastic runner has done in Pennsylvania.

"I'm focused on that," he said.

He has run a 4:15 1,600 meters, too, and is hoping to knock a couple of seconds off that before graduation.

Ward, who bettered Glah's old mark by three seconds, said his strategy when he took off was to stay on Kyle Dawson's heels.

Ward says unabashedly that the Red Raiders are very good.

"From what I've seen and heard, we're among the best," he said. "We have a lot of depth in all areas."

Some of that depth comes from pole vaulters Armand Wallace and Matt Sisk, each capable of bettering 12 feet; shot putter Andrew Scott; and speedsters Robert Jackson, Stepfan Allen, Brandon Walker and Sean Mahoney.

Contact staff writer Don Beideman

at 610-701-7613 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.