Centennial is favored to repeat as county boys champion, with its sharpest competition coming from Oakland Mills and Atholton.
The girls race is expected to be up for grabs among defending champion Centennial, Atholton, Mount Hebron, Oakland Mills and Glenelg.
All-Metro sophomore Dana Strickland, who finished eighth in the state at 19 minutes, 53 seconds, is expected to lead the Raiders to a fine season. Atholton finished third in the county, second in the region and sixth in the state last season.
Joining Strickland are senior Jennifer Elzinga (19th in the county), senior Gail Hodges (11th), junior Kelly Fitzgerald (34th) and junior Ammera El Sawi (40th). Sophomore Jessica Henry, freshman Amanda Lipscomb and junior Virginia Clark also should help.
"We have a shot at winning the girls championship," veteran coach Earl Lauer said. He thinks Middletown will offer strong competition in the state Class 2A championships.
Mike Strickland (Dana's brother) is the senior captain of Atholton's boys team and its top runner. He finished 14th in the county. Junior Brandon Hartz (34th in the county) is much improved. And sophomore Zach Tropf (15th) is an all-county runner. Beyond those are seniors Brian Walsh, John Miller and Omar El Sawi, junior Randy Hill and sophomore Anthony Fleg.
The boys should challenge Centennial and Oakland Mills for the county championship. Last season, it finished third in the county, third in the region and fifth in the state.
The rich got richer when senior Kevin Hill transferred from Pennsylvania.
Hill is expected to more than fill the shoes of graduated top runner Mark James (third in the county). Last month, Hill ran the fastest split times (5 minutes, 20 seconds) of any schoolboy runner entered in the 24-Hour Relay at Howard High.
What was expected to be a close boys county race among the Eagles, Oakland Mills and Atholton looks like a sure thing for Centennial.
"We'll be as strong as last year," coach Al Dodds said. The Eagles finished first in the county and region and third in state Class 3A.
Junior Bobby Van Allen is expected to be part of a big three for Centennial. He finished fifth in the county (16:43) last season.
Senior Steve Olenick (fourth in the county, 16:39), completes the best trio on any county squad.
Seniors Tom Mazko (22nd in the county) and Theron Sutton (28th in the county) return. They've run since they were freshmen.
Sophomores Mike French and Adam Gaydosh, seniors Dan Murphy, Todd Marks and Bret Roberts and junior Doug Jones add to the team's competitiveness.
"We have quality, depth and experience," Dodds said.
He doesn't think the girls team that won county and regional titles last year will be as strong because of the loss of Heather Tanner (fourth in the county), who moved to Alabama; Ha Lam (12th), who graduated; and Adriana Castro (15th), who graduated. But Dodds has a large turnout of 20 girls.
They are led by All-Metro sophomore Kari Meyer (third in the county, second in the region, 12th in the state). Her 2:02 at states was the seventh-fastest among area runners.
Sophomores Meredith Briscoe (23rd in the county) and Stacy Cabanilla (20th) and senior Jen McManus (30th) are back.
Others who will contribute include sophomores Jessica Papania and Brittany Deuchler, seniors Gretchen Heilman and Cherie Sticha, junior Susannah Cox and freshman Alison Pople.
L The Gladiators should have one of the top three girls teams.
jTC All-Metro senior and Class 2A champion Alicia Adams, a two-time defending county champion, will try to break her county record of 19:25 set last season.
Glenelg also returns junior Mary Marland (seventh in the county), senior Mary Rose Rankin (24th) and senior Erin Hemmler (27th).
No. 2 runner Kelly Pelovits (second in the county) graduated, and Glenelg needs a strong fifth runner.
Senior Kris Edwards (12th in the county) is the top returning boys runner for Glenelg, which finished fifth in the county last season and will be young.
Three returning lettermen include juniors Lance French and Nick Fersch and sophomore Chris Seymour.
Coach Roger Volrath said he has several promising freshmen and sophomores.
Freshman Chris Selmer, running for the Howard County Junior Striders, showed terrific speed competing in the Junior Olympics at 1,500 meters (4:23) and the half-mile (2:08).
The Bears finished seventh in the county last season.
Senior Brian Law (31st in the county) is the leading runner, and coach Larry Roberts thinks he's ready to move into the top 15.
Sophomore Peter Laanisto is one of Hammond's best runners. Sophomore Andrew Stockham shows lots of promise.
Others include first-year senior Matthew Arnold and first-year junior Jay Bussiere. Junior Steve Baldwin has improved from last season.
Sophomore Colleen Hines (35th in the county) was Hammond's only girls runner last season, and she's back.
The Lions haven't won a boys title since 1977 but had their best season since then last year under coach Martin Goode, finishing fourth in the county.
The boys are shooting for fourth again and are led by Dave Krantz (10th in the county, 17:15). Four of the top seven runners graduated, but Jim McClellan is a returning senior who was sixth man.
Don Merchant is a second-year senior and John Goode a first-year junior.
Senior Sean Hensley may work his way into the top seven. Three freshmen, Andy O'Gwin, Matt Gooden and Jordan Fox, will fight for the other spots.
Five of seven girls return.
Senior Smitha Hanamiah is the top runner. Sophomore Sarah Brown is in her second year. Juniors Jen DeYoung and Sajel Patel return, and senior Angela Torma returns after a two-year layoff.
Coach Frank Horstman is enthusiastic about both teams.
"The girls should do well; they've improved a lot," Horstman said. "And this is the strongest boys team I've had in my three years here."
Three runners return who Horstman thinks will all be among the top five or 10 girls in the county.
Senior Erin Gibbons (sixth in the county, 20:50), junior Amanda Fleck (14th) and senior Ania Jastreboff (26th) offer a strong nucleus. Horstman expects significant improvement from Jastreboff, saying this is the healthiest she's been in four seasons.
Sophomores Erin Curran and Tracy Bates should fill the next two spots.
On the boys side, senior Scott Upton (13th in the county, third in the state) improved from 17:22 in his county race to 16:57 in his state race, and Horstman hopes the improvement continues.
Sophomore Chris Williams, juniors David Moss and Joel Murray and senior Chris Knowle complete the top five.
The boys team was hard hit by graduation after winning the state Class 2A title, but is expected to remain strong again. The girls team will be the strongest in five years.
Junior Greg Curtis (seventh in the county, 17:01) heads the boys. Coach Steve Carnahan expects big things from sophomore Steve Petro in his first varsity season.
Senior Eric Larsen, who won the county championship B race in 17:45, and junior Bryan Drake ran in most of the varsity races last season.
Senior Micah Hart (18th) was the team's No. 5 runner last season. Fourth-year runner John Bartley and sophomore Danny Brown round out the top seven.
In addition to winning states, Oakland Mills won its ninth straight regional championship last season, but was second at the county meet.
Carnahan thinks the girls team will be so improved that it will qualify for states.
Alicia Brown (ninth in the county, 21:30) and Amanda Beckenstein (10th, 21:36) will lead the way. Other returnees are sophomores Rachel Nelson (25th, 22:49) and Erin Morrow (54th, 25:28).
Freshman Lauren Drake, senior Leah Siskind and sophomore Liz Ball also are battling for starting spots.
Last year, the girls finished fifth in the county.
The biggest news is that for the first time in 23 years, Wilde Lake will field a complete girls team.
The next biggest news is that the boys have a legitimate shot at escaping last place and maybe even moving toward the middle of the pack.
Coach Charlie Shoemaker has 19 boys and nine girls out this year.
Sophomore Faisal Hassan is his top runner.
"He won the junior varsity mile in outdoor track, and I think he has a shot at going under 17 minutes this year," Shoemaker said. "He could be near the top in the county."
Returning seniors Ed Axley and Mike Prout and returning juniors Ben Service and Jeff Bird give the Wildecats a solid five.
"Our goal is to finish in the top four in the state [Class 1]," Shoemaker said. "We'll run as a pack, and our top seven could finish under 18 minutes."
The girls team is young, all sophomores and freshmen, led by freshmen Libby George, Leah Nelson, Emily Scott and Laura Choi.
"Choi has been a real surprise," Shoemaker said. "She's a hard worker and finished second in our time trials."
The sophomores include returnees Cheneanne Coleman, Shanita Miller and Latoya Terry. Jennifer Tielmann is a sophomore transfer from Washington state.