Boy to watch: Senior Cole Rosenberg.
Girl to watch: to be determined.
The scoop: Hammond only has 20 runners on the entire team. On the positive side, eight of them are girls, which is the most the Golden Bears have had in a long time.
"Unfortunately, only three of them are returning runners, the other five are first-year runners," said coach Jim Gross.
There are four or five returners on the boys' side. Rosenberg will be the top runner, but cross country is what he does to get in shape for track where his specialty is the 800-meters.
"I'm just looking for improvement each and every race," Gross said. "It will be a challenging season, especially for the seven freshmen on the team."
Gross has the right philosophy for his young team: an obstacle in life is anything that you see or do when you take your eyes off of your goals.
Invitationals: South Carroll, Bull Run, Crossfire (Liberty) and Georgetown Prep.
Boys to watch: Senior Danny Rau; juniors Luke Filar, Evan Moore and Tyler Lewis; sophomores Ray Smith, Ryan Land, Nolan Dunnigan, Ian Kappey, Devin Rowell.
Girls to watch: Senior Caroline Haden; junior Melissa Pratt; sophomores Nupur Hegde and Winnie Tsao.
The scoop: With 75 runners, Howard is fielding its largest boys' team ever. "Our team's strength this season is its incredible natural talent, youth and the potential for growth coupled with an outstanding lead runner in Danny Rau," said coach Nathan Ferrell.
Rau, who finished seventh in the county last year, is the only senior on the squad.
His efforts will be bolstered by those of Filar and the sophomore pack of Smith, Land, Dunnigan and Kappey, among others.
"We have been working to improve on endurance and focus for all of our runners while adhering to better race strategy for team finishes," Ferrell said. "We are looking to finish top three in the county and region. We hope to qualify for states, and Danny Rau is looking like he will have an outstanding individual finish in the field."
The Lions lost three of their top seven girls from last year so they are working on team cohesiveness and pack running.
"We have a large amount of girls, which helps to make practice fun and competitive. We also have a lot of new runners who are very eager to run in races," said coach Matt Stump. He describes his 49-member team as energetic and new.
"We have a lot of first-year runners who are learning from our veteran leaders. I think we will be a competitive team this year."
Invitationals: Bull Run, Cavalier (South Carroll) and Scorpion Crawl.