The Lady Rams return their top 6 runners from last year's state title winning squad. Leading the way are two all-state returnees in seniors Joanna Rodgers (7th) and Sam Ference (8th). Rodgers (3:16 1000m, 5:06 1600m, 11:28 3200m) and Ference (3:17 1000m, 5:11 1600m, 11:38 3200m) both posted some great times during the track season and figure to be up close to the race leaders in this year's race to lead the Lady Rams' attack. The talent certainly doesn't stop there, running as their number three runner is Lauren Hovland, the 18th fastest returnee from last year's race. Hovland has ran a 19:33 for the 5K distance and during track showed her versatility by running a 3:11 for 1000 meters and 47.13 for the 300 hurdles. Courtney Kuhn (20:18 5K), Kelly Givens (20:09 5K), Caitlin Glass (20:42), and Abby Ward (12:07 3200m) round out what looks to be one formidable lineup for the Robinson girls. However, despite the fact Robinson does return nearly everyone from last year's championship squad, so did many of the top teams from last year's state race and many runners on those squads improved a lot over the track season.
The biggest threat to Robinson looks to be coming from their region. The Northern Region girls are always known for their abundance of great teams and this year will be no exception. The Lake Braddock girls were a very young squad last year that nearly half of its team consisted of freshmen. They finished a respectable fifth at the state meet with an inexperienced group and return everyone from that team, which saw some great improvement from their group of rising sophomores during track. However, the team also has some great senior leadership in Kelly Swain. Swain figures to challenge for her own individual glory as she comes into the season with personal bests of a 5:10 1600m, 11:02 3200m, and 18:35 5K. Kelsey Snowden (2:19 800m, 3:03 1000m, 5:24 1600m, 20:00 5K) leads the group of talented sophomores that includes Kelly Sherrad (5:34 1600m, 11:44 3200m), Sarah Rothe (5:27 1600m, 11:53 3200m, 19:24 5K), Becca Hoogland (5:34 1600m, 12:09 5K) and Gabi Subert (2:23 800m, 5:30 1600m). Along with Swain, seniors Kelly Dick (20:33 5K) and Abbegail McGrath (20:27 5K0 give the Lady Bruins a nice blend of youth and veterans. When looking at the Lake Braddock girls' times, especially from track, it appears they will be very tough to beat and possibly have an edge over defending champions from James Robinson. However the key to their success will be for their talented group of sophomores to prove themselves on the cross country course as well as they did on the track this past spring.
The West Springfield girls had a few losses from last year's third place finishing team, but still return a strong core of runners that will make this year's team equally as tough. Gone are Maureen Hagan and Katie Freund, but returning are seniors Huma Husain (2:15 800m, 3:02 1000m, 5:09 1600m, 20:19 5K), Meredith Nitzberg (11:27 3200m, 20:24 5K), Kelly Ann Osbourn (5:21 1600m, 11:37 3200m, 20:22 5K), Jen Powers (2:21 800m, 5:24 1600m), and sophomore Andrea Delgado (11:59 3200m). With four seniors leading the charge for the Lady Spartans, they will be hungry to go out on top at Great Meadows.
Thomas Jefferson girls, while not as hyped as their boys' team, will look to better their seventh place finishing state performance from last year with a senior dominated group. The Lady Colonials are led by junior Sarah Levine who sports bests of 5:25 1600m, 11:26 3200m, and 19:23 5K. Senior Shauneen Garrahan (5:15 1600m), Leah McKay (5:27 1600m, 11:40 3200m, 20:39 5K), Boriana Bakaltchev (2:28 800m, 5:33 1600m, 12:20 3200m, 20:30 5K), and junior Jen Dolson (5:27 1600m, 11:32 3200m, 20:24 5K).
With already four incredible teams mentioned from the Northern Region Meet, it looks to be a dogfight just to get out of the region for these teams and may force them to put a lot of focus on just getting to states. This may play to the advantage of the top returning teams from other regions that are not as competitive.
While it appears that the Eastern Region will be severely lacking in quality boys' teams, that is not the case on the girls' side with the girls from Ocean Lakes and Kellam.
Ocean Lakes shocked many last year at the state meet, when they finished fourth without their top runner Selina Sekulic who suffered a mid-season injury. Not only was finishing so high without their front runner a surprise, but also defying the reputation that the Beach area schools cannot run well on the hilly state course at Great Meadows. Returning Sekulic, a sub 19 5K runner and a bunch of talented young faces, Ocean Lakes may have what it takes to reach the podium in November. Katie Keally, young sister of the Foot Locker finalist Matt Keally, had a great freshmen year with times of a 5:29 1600m, 11:39 3200m, and 19:45 5K. Also supporting Sekulic and Keally will be sophomore Kristin Lloyd (12:05 3200m), juniors Heather Murdoch (2:24 800m, 3:14 1000m, 5:33 1600m, 20:57 5K), Therian Teach (2:28 800m, 5:38 1600m, 12:20 3200m, 20:45 5K), and Danielle Trautman (5:36 1600m, 12:07 3200m, 20:37 5K). If Sekulic can remain healthy, Ocean Lakes can make a strong claim as a title contender.
The Knights of Kellam will be looking to carry their momentum from a successful track season into cross country this fall as they return a very talented lineup. Leading the squad is junior Natalie Sherbak, who really emerged during the track season. Sherbak posted times of a 2:17 800m, 3:03 1000m, and 5:13 1600m. She will be looking to drop her 5K best of 19:23 significantly this season. Not too far behind Sherbak will be teammate Kelley Taylor (2:21 800m, 3:03 1000m, 5:12 1600m, 11:24 3200m, 19:43 5K). Backing up the duo of Sherbak and Taylor will be Audrey Hand (5:25 1600m, 11:53 3200m, 20:47 5K), Jessica Smith (2:20 800m, 5:12 1600m), and Hanna Lein (5:35 1600m, 12:41 3200m).
Last year's runnerup to Robinson by 23 points, James River returns nearly all of their runners from last year. Gone is Shannon Van Dyke, who moved to Boston during the summer, as she finished sixth for the squad at last year's state meet. The Lady Rapids have a strong front runner in senior Kristen Coffield. Coffield is the 11th fastest returnee from last year's race and ran a 5:14 1600m and 11::44 3200m in the spring. Coffield is complemented very well with the sophomore Ward twins, Rebecca (2:22 800m, 3:09 1000m, 5:30 1600m, 20:01 5K) and Christy (2:29 800m, 5:33 1600m, 20:02 5K). The twins emergence as the Lady Rapids' number two and three runners last fall was a big reason for the team's surprising second place finish. Sophomore Rita Degrazia (12:25 3200m, 20:15 5K) and senior Callie Hopkins (20:23 5K) solidify their top five.
Another Central Region representative from last year's state meet that returns the majority of their squad is the Midlothian girls. The team finds themselves in the same boat as teams like Lake Braddock and Kellam, who had their runners run exceptionally well during the track season, yet have an unproven record in cross country. Returning from last year's group are Maria Anthony (2:22 800m, 20:17 5K), Amanda Creamer (2:23 800m, 3:07 1000m, 20:28 5K), Evan Dove (5:22 1600m, 12:08 3200m, 20:02 5K), and Erin Prillaman (2:20 800m). Additions to the group are transfer sophomore Amanda Patterson (2:22 800m, 20:12 3mi) from Clover Hill and freshmen Jessica Oakley, a middle school county 2 mile champion (sub 13).
With almost all of the top teams returning the majority of their squads, it looks to be a crapshoot and one exciting battle in November at Great Meadows.