Only three girls were able to dip under 24 minutes for three miles, a relatively pedestrian 8-minutes-per-mile pace, at the City Championships last year. Fortunately, at least, all three will be back to do battle again this season.
While cross country certainly hasn't been the forte of city public schools over the years, perhaps Deborah Green of Northern, April Mullen of Mervo and Nathasha Wallace of Western, all underclassmen, can help change that.
Green, a junior, has won the individual title the last two years and there's little reason to doubt she might make it 4-for-4 before graduating. And, slowly but surely, her team has begun to improve, Northern finishing second to perennial winner Western and in a virtual dead heat with Mervo last fall.
While just four city schools fielded complete girls teams last season, the boys had more than double the competition and most of the squads were jam-packed with freshmen and sophomores.
Mervo, which gave Poly a scare for the team title last fall, gets the preseason nod as favorite, but it lost its best distanceman and is in the same boat as everyone else trying to get its runners in the vicinity of a 6-minute pace for three miles.
Talented and deep Notre Dame Prep was a big favorite to repeat as Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland champion last year after winning the year before and returning most of its top runners, but it didn't happen.
What happened was Nyam Kagwima showed up at Bryn Mawr and dominated the A division. So that means Bryn Mawr is the team to beat this time around, and there sits NDP with its veteran cast ready to strike. The competition doesn't end there, either, with Mount de Sales having a strong cast.
Park unseated St. Paul's in the B division last season and, together with Garrison, IND and Friends, should battle it out this season.
Calvert Hall won the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland boys A division last year, 62-63, over Mount St. Joseph. It was the second straight year the heavily favored Gaels were beaten in the title run after cruising through the dual-meet season. A slip or two by these perennial powers could open the gates for McDonogh, Loyola and St. Paul's, 3-4-5 in last year's final standings, this time around.
The most successful runners in both the A and B divisions are back, including A champ Chris Wright and Ron Kirchner (Mt. St. Joseph), B titleist Dusty Lieb (Spalding) and Matt Schelberg and Gene McAuliffe (Loyola). So, once again the team titles in both divisions should be up for grabs.