Several Baltimore City cross-country teams can make runs at championships this fall.
Archbishop Curley and Gilman have the best shots for boys among private schools. Both teams will be battling perennial power Calvert Hall and McDonogh in a tough Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
Curley turned some heads last weekend when it topped Calvert Hall at the Jack Griffin Invitational. The Friars finished second -- behind Centennial -- but beat the Cardinals.
And the Friars should beat many teams this season. Seniors John Supsic and Steve Moxey should take care of the top two spots for coach Gene Hoffman.
Junior Tony Diem, seniors John Cruse, Gordon Topper and Ken Willson and junior Dan Scheuerman round out a pack filled with experience. Hoffman said Supsic, Moxey and Scheuerman ran hard during the summer and reported in great shape.
Curley swept the A Conference and the then-Maryland Scholastic Association championship meet titles five times in the 1980s but has not won an A Conference title or the MIAA (or MSA) championship meet since 1990. Hoffman thinks his team might be able to break that streak this season.
"We're as well-trained as we can be," said Hoffman. "We're as ready as we can be."
Gilman also is poised for a shot at the conference title and/or the championship meet crown. The Greyhounds, despite losing recent anchor Ted Lord, bring back plenty of talent that coach Jack Thompson said could give his team a shot at its first title since 1980.
Junior Dave Chalmers (sixth in MIAA) and senior Ted Wasserman should give the Greyhounds a solid pair at the top. Seniors Reed Townsend and Andy Chang and junior Tom Hale will help.
For the girls, Roland Park and Bryn Mawr are the top private schools. While they probably aren't strong enough to give either Notre Dame Prep or Mount de Sales a fight for the Association of Independent Schools' top spot, both should have good seasons.
At Roland Park, coach Mary Beth Dyer has three of her top five runners back, including senior Kelly Sloan, who finished second in the AIS championship last year.
Classmates Sasha Oshrine, Rachel Pickworth plus sophomore Jane Park and junior Whitney Howard should round out the top five.
Roland Park has some good experience and, with some good younger runners, should come on later in the season.
"I think we should have a consistent season," said Dyer, whose team was third in the AIS last fall.
Coach Ariella Sontag hopes for the same at Bryn Mawr. With only one senior, the Mawrtians will depend upon underclassmen to carry the load.
Sophomore Brianne Jenkins, junior Chris Houle, sophomores Liz Miller and Jesse Kult in addition to freshmen Sarah Morrow should do well, especially later in the season.
On the public school side, Mervo returns lots of talent from last year and should be the top boys team.
The Mustangs, who won the Class 4A state track title last spring, won the District IX last fall and took second in the region and 13th in the state. Coach Ron Neal hopes for more of the same this year.
"If they jell right, we could do very well," said Neal. "I don't look for us to do well early, [but] we're pointing for districts, regions and states."
Senior Mike Curtis should pace Mervo. Curtis finished second in the region, fifth in the district and sixth in the state last fall. He'll get help from Garfield Thompson; the junior won the district title and took third in the region and 21st in the state.
Neal said he's also hoping for big things from junior Antoine Collins. Senior James Carter, who did almost everything possible for the indoor and outdoor track squads last year, will be back with sophomore Tyree Byron.
Other teams are improving, such as Carver, which the Mervo coaches expect to push the Mustangs at some point.
For the girls, the picture is similar -- with one team dominating and the others trying to catch up.
Western, despite not being nearly as deep as in years past, still has plenty of talent. Coach Jerry Molyneaux lost a lot from last year but still has junior Kimya McCoy as his top runner.
McCoy, who finished second in the district and went on to a top 15 finish at the states, will be relied upon heavily. Sophomore Elizabeth Johnson and senior Crystal Richberg need to step up.
Johnson finished third in the district and Richberg also ended up in the top 10.
"To win a championship, you must have at least five good runners," said Molyneaux. "At present, I don't know if we have that."
Mervo and Southwestern could push Western. Junior Asha Carter should spark the Mustangs, who hope to come closer to the Doves this year.