Athletes to watch: Larissa Swanson, Sr.; Paige Wehling, Sr.; Jamie Ackman, Sr.; Abby Bultema, Jr.
Outlook: The Bobcats girls have bigger numbers on their side than do the boys, but half of Beecher coach Pam Derry's female athletes are either freshmen or sophomores. That will likely mean growing pains for the Bobcats, who'll lean heavily on Swanson and Wehling at the outset. But with so much attention being paid to the guys because of their 2010 Class 1A title, the girls can develop as runners without too much pressure.
Athletes to watch: Joanna Sanchez, Jr.; Gina Narcifi, So.; Maria Narcifi, So.; Karina Middleton, Sr.
Outlook: Sanchez, an all-conference runner a year ago, and Gina Narcifi head up this season's Blazing Trojans. Bloom Township will miss the leadership of Monica Chavolla, but coach Huey Johnson usually finds a way to keep his squad competitive. The Blazing Trojans are three years removed from a conference title and wound up second in 2010, so there's recent success to reference. If there's a missing ingredient, it's depth -- Johnson ventures into the unknown beyond his four returnees.
Athletes to watch: Teja Foy, Sr.; Grace Flowers, Sr.; Latris Daniels, So.; Tajae Vallott, Sr.; Milea Foy, So.; Tineja Foy, Fr.
Outlook: Teja Foy rates as the Warriors' leader this year, thanks to a 2010 performance that included a fourth-place regional finish and ninth place in the conference meet. Her younger sisters, Milea and Tineja, are expected to contribute. In all, Crete welcomes back four of last season's top seven runners, meaning good things should await it.
Athletes to watch: MicKayla Jones, Sr.; Eileen Whited, Sr.; Cortney Cross, Jr.; Megan Magurany, So.; Vicky Garcia, Sr.; Ima Eno, Jr.; Mia Guzynski, Fr.
Outlook: In Jones and Whited -- who ran 1-2 at last season's Class 3A Bloom Township Regional -- the Vikings have two excellent building blocks for 2011. Besides cross country, the duo displayed some talent on the track as well, which is likely to pay off in reduced times this fall. Garcia is another experienced runner for new coach Rob Assise, who is also optimistic about a few of his younger athletes. Assise, who coaches H-F's girls track team, takes over for Betsy McCabe.
Athletes to watch: Chloe Porter, Sr.; Alexa Beezhold, So.; Alex Clausing, So.; Emma Pawlowski, So.; Monica Smits, So; Holly Zuidema, Sr.; Janaya Crevier, Sr.; Tiffany Groen, So.
Outlook: Don't let the youth of Illiana's runners to watch fool you -- Pawlowski, Beezhold, Clausing and Smits were four of the Vikings' five scorers at the Class 2A meet, where Illiana placed 18th. Porter has also enjoyed past success in the sport and will help the Vikings remain strong as a team. Illiana is seeking a third consecutive regional crown. Impacting both the sectional and state meets again is also very possible.
Athletes to watch: Maureen Volkman, Jr.; Angela Totos, Sr.; Christina Moreno, Jr.; Jacqueline Silverman, Jr.; Helena Mierzwa, Sr.; Kaila Konecki, Jr.; Caitlin Henry, So.
Outlook: Compared to the slimmed-down roster of coach Tim Sovereign's boys team, Marian's total of 23 girls is quite satisfactory. Konecki and Henry are newcomers who caught Sovereign's eye during preseason practices and could provide the Spartans with a nice boost. This is a young group, which means there is room for development. The immediate goal is to have a greater say within the highly competitive East Suburban Catholic Conference, then go forward.
Athletes to watch: Brittany Mitchell, Sr.; Ebony Bailey, So.; Melani McCoy, So.
Outlook: As with Seton's boys program, the Sting girls are acclimating themselves to cross country. Now that some groundwork has been laid, growth should occur with some rapidity. Mitchell will probably be surrounded by younger athletes, so her role must extend beyond the course and include leadership. Bailey and McCoy are newcomers with potential.
Athletes to watch: Dasia McCain, Jr.; Tatiana Groom, So.
Outlook: Tashanna Gillenwater-Catron replaces Al Llorens at Thornridge, and like her predecessor often did, Gillenwater-Catron will be operating with slim numbers. The new coach praised McCain's strength and Groom's hate-to-lose attitude, but acknowledged that the Falcons must get help from a few other sources to do anything of significance from a team standpoint.
Athlete to watch: Maritza Najera.
Outlook: Najera isn't the Wildcats' only runner, but she's unquestionably the purple-clad person to watch. Advancing Najera to the Class 3A meet is at the top of Thornton's to-do list. Along the way, he hopes her quest for excellence rubs off on the inexperienced 'Cats and gets them eager to put in the work necessary to one day have a realistic shot at glory of their own.
Athletes to watch: Edith Perez, Sr.; Andria Munoz, Jr.; Monica Munoz, Fr.
Outlook: Omari Garrett and Brandi Green will guide the Meteors, who, like T.F. North's boys, must cope with less-than-imposing roster numbers. Perez and the Munozes form the program's hub, but the Meteors need more bodies in order to make anydent in team scoring at meets. For the moment, individual feats will be the focus.
Athletes to watch: Jessica Fierce, Jr.; Brianna Hientz, So.; Cruzita Arambula, Sr.; Breeanna Fisher, Jr.
Outlook: Each of Steve Nelson's first two cross country squads at T.F. South advanced to the Class 3A sectionals, but accomplishing the feat a third time becomes a tougher task without Patty Stellfox, the program's top runner the past three seasons. Fierce steps into that team-leader role after a solid sophomore campaign, but both Hientz and four-year veteran Arambula are capable performers.
Athletes to watch: Ahlia Melendez, Sr.; Desjana Wilson, Jr.
Outlook: Roy White switches from the Thunderbirds' boys' team back to the girls' squad with the idea of improving athlete turnout. Once teeming with runners, Thornwood's program has taken a hit personnel-wise in recent years, something White will try to cure with members of the track team. Foremost among those springtime runners is Melendez, the T'birds' top sprinter this past season.
-- Compiled by Ken Karrson