If any Carroll County high school boys track team comes within 50 points of Westminster this spring, it will be a major surprise.
The Owls appear to have everything in place for a 12th consecutive county title.
Coach Bill Hill is back for a 16th season, talent abounds everywhere, 12 seniors are back and depth is a given with 55 boys out for the team.
Westminster rolled up 165 1/2 points to 79 for second-place Francis Scott Key last year in the county meet.
And the way the Owls stack up against the rest of the field this season, that margin could run higher this spring.
"We're a real strong, mature team," said Hill. "A lot of our seniors have been with us for four years. Our goal is to have 10 to 15 people ready for the states."
Westminster also won the Central Maryland Conference championship and the regionals.
But the Owls were fourth in the state 4A meet, a finish that will drive Hill's squad this season.
Nine seniors will lead the charge for a state championship, including cross country standouts Jim Holford, Dion Stanton and Chris Zendgraft, who will compete in the distance runs.
Other top seniors back this spring are Jason Waltrup (shot put, discus), Gunter Kroe (middle distance, sprints), Jay Merker (hurdles and sprints), Wade Shank (sprinter, middle distance), Jason Craig (hurdles, jumps) and Rick Raczkowski (pole vault).
Shank was fifth in the states in the 800 last year.
Matt Knights leads six juniors who are expected to score a lot of points. Knights is a jumper and sprinter and took third in the state triple jump last spring.
The other outstanding juniors are Larry Devilbliss (jumps), Jason Knight (sprints, jumps), Kenny Roe (100, 200, 400), Chris High (high jump, shot, discus) and Steve Kahler (1,600).
Roe and High are on the team for the first year.
"Roe is a coach's dream," said Hill. "He's a boy with a lot of talent. And High is a real find. He's 6-4, 175 pounds and he's going to get his points in the field events."
Kahler finished fifth in the state in the 1,600 last season.
The top sophomore is Doug Reese, a first-year pole vaulter.
If the Owls are to accomplish their goal of a state title, Hill believes they will have to outscore the likes of Old Mill, Springbrook, Mervo and Roosevelt in the state meet.
"Those teams are all tough and they have indoor track, which gives them an advantage," said the coach. "But they've had that same advantage for a long time. We just have to deal with it."
If anybody is wondering why Westminster keeps marching relentlessly along, Hill said the answer is in continuity.
"We have a good solid coaching staff that has been around awhile," he said. "That consistency helps us attract a lot of youngsters to the team, and numbers are important."
F.S. Key keeps up chase
The Eagles might lose some ground in their bid to catch powerful Westminster.
They've lost outstanding mile-relay team members Jim Clarius, Mitch Jones and Pat Bosley.
Clarius, now at Western Maryland, also was a top distance runner at Key.
"We're going to have to rebuild our relay teams," said first-year coach Rich Salkin. "We hope to match the efforts of last year's team but there are no guarantees. We're going to have to pull some kids out of the woodwork to make up for the people we lost."
Key has a smattering of seniors and juniors back from last year who will lead the team this spring.
The top senior returnees are Scott Kreit (sprints, jumps), Dave Bull (jumps), Ryan Dunn (pole vault) and Bill Stonesifer (hurdles).
The leading juniors are Josh Crone (pole vault), Sean Smith (sprints), Ryan Robertson (middle distance) and Kenny Oldham (distance).
The most promising newcomer is freshman Scott Compton (sprints).
Cavaliers have heart
South Carroll isn't loaded with talent or numbers, but coach Rob Pennington said his youngsters have "the biggest heart I've ever seen."
Senior middle distance runners Matt Crill and Aaron Quidort are the marquee runners for the Cavaliers.
Other outstanding seniors returning are Henry Oswald (thrower), Steve Ford (sprints) and Leo Fryrear (thrower, jumps, sprints).
Three returning juniors, Dave Sayler (sprints), Haven Barnes (middle distance) and Kyle Tebbs (two-mile) should help.
Top sophomores back from last season are Brad Mattson (sprints), Nick Reider (hurdles, triple jump), Matt Bry (pole vault) and Greg Vlahos (pole vault).
Three sophomore newcomers who should score some points are Eddie Medina (sprints), Craig Yeager (middle distance) and Dave Marion (sprints, hurdles, jumps).
"We're going to be weak in the field events," said Pennington. "But we have strong senior leadership and a good rapport among our youngsters."
Liberty lacks depth
The Lions are having trouble filling their relay teams, and they don't have any good sprinters.
"We're looking to the future," said coach Amy Filsinger. "We just don't have the numbers of a Westminster."
Senior Aaron Sweemer (sprints, distance) is the top returner for Liberty and should score a lot of points.
The other seniors expected to help are Eddie Pleat (shot, discus, pole vault), Ian Beam (distance), Donnie Browning (sprints) and Eric Field (sprints, hurdles).
Sophomore distance runner Joe Ledda should emerge as one of the leading point-scorers, and he will be helped by classmates Justin Combs (mile) and Aric Dietrich (800).
Teddy Sanders (hurdles) and Brian Lingle (jumps, high hurdles) are being counted on after good sophomore seasons.
Sanders finished fourth in the state 300-meter hurdles and Lingle was outstanding in the 110-meter high hurdles.
Freshmen Ken Fischer (distance), Mike Nagel (sprints), Scott Taylor (sprints, pole vault) and Jim Redding (shot put) have a lot of potential.
N. Carroll relies on youth
North Carroll coach Stu Krise said his team is so young that it would qualify as a "top-caliber JV team."
"We have 24 sophomores out of 37 members of the team," said Krise.
Juniors Joey Savina (jumps, sprints) and Brian Letnauchyn (distance) are the top competitors back from last season.
Gone are four outstanding members of last season's team that finished third in the county meet. They are Bobby Gibbons, Matt Davis, Wil Lerp and Dave Campbell.
Four sophomores return from last season: Brian Gunning (middle distance), Corey Rill (middle and long distance), Andy Gilmore and Gene Phillips.
Two newcomers who should help are senior Keith Erickson (sprints, jumps) and Arich Black (sprints).