Boys to watch: Seniors Chris Moran, Ralph Erickson and Brian Samples.
Girls to watch: Senior Hyujae Kim; sophomores Emily Park and Jess Hsu.
The scoop: The Lightning boys, 22 strong, expect great leadership from their three seniors. All are veteran runners and will be able to mentor the team's newcomers. That will be important as Long Reach tries to replace three runners from last year's varsity.
"We're looking to some newcomers to step up," said coach Jessica Reitz Murphy.
The Long Reach girls will also be building. The 11 runners nearly double the size of last year's team. In years past, Long Reach has struggled to field a full girls team.
"We've really been trying to grow the (girls) team," Murphy said. "There are a lot of newcomers, all of whom are really high energy. The returners are sharing their wisdom; we're really looking forward to a great season."
Invitationals: Scorpion Crawl and Bull Run.
Boys to watch: Seniors Gulraize Khan, Ryan Hermstein and Daniel Vogel; juniors Michael Bernal, Silas Buck and Clay Cochran.
Girls to watch: Seniors Aby Whiting and Jackie Berges; juniors Bailey Merrill, Caroline Johnson and Katie Algair; freshman Abigail Starks.
The scoop: Almost all of the boys from last year's Marriotts Ridge team are back and they are ready to get to work. All 58 who came out for this year's team made the time qualification of 30 minutes for a 5k run.
The top 12-15 runners on the Mustangs' squad put in their summer miles.
"This should create some great inter-squad competition. Nothing is set in stone, so each runner will have to compete for his spot on the varsity squad," said boys coach Richard Malt. "This year, our focus will be to run more as a team/pack while continually improving our times."
Hermstein, a captain, may have set the tone for the Mustangs' season when he quoted Joe Newton, a legendary Illinois high school cross country coach. "Your mind can make you train, your body can create power, but only your heart can make you a champion."
With 26 runners, the Mustang girls have depth as well as youth.
"The team this year is very young. A lot of freshmen could be in our top seven by the end of the season," said coach Jason Conley. Because of the younger athletes, Conley expects his squad to start slowly and come on strong.
Invitationals: South Carroll, Southern Bulldog, Scorpion Crawl and Bull Run.
Boys to watch: Seniors Andy DeLaitsch, Karl Schmidt and Michael Smith; junior Ben Weinstein; freshman Corey Hamilton.
Girls to watch: Seniors Rachel Yep, Chelsea Vane and Marissa Lechmann; junior Jasmine Johnson; sophomores Mareli Aguiniga and Karina Aquiahuati; freshman Cassandra Meyers.