Duneland Athletic Conference
Runners to watch: Haley Cushway, Sr.; Kassidy Scott, Jr.; Leah Sink, So.
Outlook: Chesterton returns three runners from a group that placed 16th at state, and the roster isn't lacking in talent and experience behind them. "We've just got a bunch of kids who need to believe in their abilities and run like we know they can," coach Brian Carden said. "I think we can be as good or better than last year."
Runners to watch: Kayla McGurk, Sr.; Lyndie Pierce, Sr.; Alex St. Amour, Jr.; Jill Zimmerman, Jr.; Brigette Banser, So.
Outlook: The Bulldogs lost three from last year’s top four, but McGurk, a two-time track state qualifier, is back. Newcomers will have to excel to keep a seven-year sectional title streak alive. Coach Adam Piaskowy will rely on depth and pack running.
Runners to watch: Megan Zajac, Jr.; Jade Tazbir, Sr.; Alexa Klepkowski, Sr.; Zoe Carroll. Sr.; Maritza Castaneda, Jr.; Emma Weissbeck, So.
Outlook: Injuries ravaged L.C. last year, but the Indians won their ninth consecutive sectional and eighth regional in nine years. A freshman group that includes Sarah Hunsley, Sara Ramos and Jenny Crague will try to return to the state meet after a rare absence.
Runners to watch: Elena Lancioni, Sr. (16th at state); Kristin Cave, Sr.; Kailee Schoof, So.; Alyssa Gerick, Sr.; Marie Didion, So.
Outlook: The Slicers return most of the lineup that fell 10 points and one place shy of a trip to Terre Haute. They're primed to vie for DAC honors and qualify for state for the first time since 1999. "This may be the strongest team LaPorte's ever had," coach John Dearing said. "The core of seniors has been here since I started and they've built each year. State is the next step."
Runners to watch: Anna Feliciano, Jr.; Claret Diaz, Jr.; Tamera Julkes, Sr.; Ashley Walton, So.
Outlook: New coach Patrick Coffey inherits a young team, but a summer lifting and running program will keep the Pirates respectable. A recent 5K begat many personal-best times, which gives the team confidence.
Runners to watch: Jasmine McLemore, So.; Shalynn McNeal, Sr.; Alexis Jackson, Jr.
Outlook: Coach Tim Bumber is back and has a young base of talent with three freshmen and McLemore, a 400-meter state qualifier who's adapting well. "I made up my mind that if I was going to come back, I was going to do it right," Bumber said. "I think we're going to surprise some people."
Runners to watch: Kyra Ball, So.; Paige Pizer, Sr.
Outlook: The Indians, 21st at state, have their entire 12-girl roster still around, part of a group of 28, coach Jay White's biggest team. The ranks are wide open after Ball and Pizer. "We're eight, nine, maybe as deep as 12," White said. "There's going to be a lot of interchanging. They're determined to have a good performance in Terre Haute, if we’re fortunate enough to get that far."
Runners to watch: Aurora Bonner, Sr.; Alison Mundell, Jr.; Michaela Gazdich, Sr.; Ellie Joll, So.; Sydnye Nossbusch, So.
Outlook: Valpo has six girls back from the squad that finished 15th at state. Freshman Julia Rohde will fit in nicely. "We talked a lot last year about how young we were and it showed at the end," coach Boomer Nellessen said. "Our expectations are definitely much higher. They don't just want to get to the state and be happy they did."
Greater South Shore Conference
Runners to watch: Andie Fremouw, Sr.; Jackie Esparza, Sr.; Lindsey Ksiazek, So.
Outlook: Modest numbers have been boosted by seniors conditioning for other sports, as the Warriors have another full squad. The raw athletes will have to compete well. "They have to understand the concept of cross country," coach Karl Repay said.
Runners to watch: Summer Brown, So.; Deena Hayes, Sr.; Ashley Redd, Jr.; Brittney Russell, So.
Outlook: Brown could walk away with the school record in due time for the Warriors, who come off a regional berth.
Runners to watch: Lindsey Kolanowski, So.; Olivia Umlauf, So.; Sammie Hunt, Sr.; Ivana Micic, So.
Outlook: The Wildcats have the potential to reach the regional with their top four back. The nucleus has improved, and once depth is developed, things are looking up.
Runners to watch: Karrie Denisiuk, So.; Jessica Rivera, Sr.; Kelia Sylvester, Sr.; Alexis McKee, So.
Outlook: The roster has reached double digits, a rarity in recent years. The Gillespie twins, sophomores Rachel and Heather, add a competitive spirit.
Runners to watch: Zoya Ganz, Jr.; Anna Grabovac, Sr.; Lilly Giancaspro, So.
Outlook: The Blazers return three of their four girls, and two dual-sport newcomers will enable them to post a team score. "They're all returning much stronger," coach Nicole Caylor said. "I'm already seeing improvements."
Runners to watch: Kaila Moskalick, So.; Kirstin Crawford, Jr.; Alyce Kessler, Jr.
Outlook: Seniors Gabby Jackson and Shawna Bookwalter will try to keep up with younger teammates. Pack running was not a strong suit a year ago, but Moskalick’s success bodes well. Crawford is new but already showing promise. “We have a strong nucleus to build on, and should be very competitive,” coach Tim Loughmiller said.
Runners to watch: Caridad Ramos, Sr.; Lauren Rothbauer, Sr.
Outlook: A pair of seniors who’ve put in many years and miles are ready for the training to pay dividends. “I’m looking forward to seeing them improve and finish their senior year on a high note,” coach Rebeca Dominguez said.
Runners to watch: Kelly O'Shea, Jr.; Abbie Janda, Jr.; Lauren Fratzke, So.
Outlook: O'Shea was a semistate qualifier. The addition of Fratzke, a soccer player, will bolster fortunes. "All the girls know the expectations are to get out of the sectional," coach Ben Kosal said. "They want to do it as a team. They have the potential. It can happen."
Runners to watch: Citlali Lopez, Sr.; Maira Huizar, Jr.; Ambria Sotello, Jr.; Emily Brooks.
Outlook: New coach Allison Buell inherits a team bursting with participation as 26 runners are out, led by Lopez.
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
Runner to watch: Corina Wilson, Sr.
Outlook: Camyrria Baggett is gone, and the Pioneers will first have to round up a top five as school gets going.
Runner to watch: Alexandria James, Jr.
Outlook: Three of the top runners graduated, but James, the GLAC champion, remains.
Runners to watch: Tazane Dixon, Jr.; Vanessa Weaver, Sr.
Outlook: Enthusiastic coach Travis Morris is steadily building his program. August began slowly, but he hopes it picks up fast.
Runners to watch: Celeste Rosillo; Leslie Marquez.
Outlook: The Governors are a GLAC contender based on depth despite often not having a full squad last year.
Northwest Crossroads Conference
Runners to watch: Alyson Janiga, Sr.; Kellyn Vale, Jr.; Kaycee Crist, Jr.; Isabella Pradhen, So.; Angeline Barthel, Jr.
Outlook: If runners can avoid last season's setbacks, this year will be a vast improvement. Pradhen, a track sprinter, is new and rounds out a core five that will rebuild strength and confidence and then succeed with improving freshmen.
Runners to watch: Brittany Burbridge, Jr.; Jessica Leslie, Jr.; Alejandra Leon, So.
Outlook: Replacing the area’s best runner in Taylor Austin will not be easy, but coach Shannon Scheidel's small squad is working hard.
Runners to watch: Amber Przyborski, Sr.; Abby Rivera, Jr.; Clarissa Magley, Sr.; Jesenia Zendejas, Sr.; Kimmie Betustak, So.
Outlook: This team found itself late in the season and returns several standouts from a regional qualifier. Top runner Przyborski will miss early meets with an injury. In her stead, Magley and Rivera will step up, and freshman Reilly Panozzo, who’s also playing soccer, could surpass everyone.
Runners to watch: Celena Guerrero, Sr.; Mindy Whidden, Sr.; Marissa Porras, So.; Marina Ahner, Fr.; Krystal Villaruel, Sr.
Outlook: With the best 1-2 combo in Lake County in Guerrero and Whidden, the Brickies are NCC favorites. Depth was all that prevented them from postseason hardware. With Porras maturing and several former middle school standouts, including triathlete Ahner and fellow frosh Maddie Leonard on the rise, this could be a special season.
Runners to watch: Allison Rockley, Sr.; Brittany Stepp, Sr.; Kaylin Orsburn, Sr.; Brittany Kent, Fr.; Kate Lott, Sr.
Outlook: Success has become the norm for the defending Rensselaer Sectional champions. Rockley has been all-NCC three straight years, but will have to lead the pack with Michelle Kent now at an academic academy. Kent’s sister arrives with hope for an athletic team rife with experienced runners.
Runners to watch: Sarah Weiser, Sr.; Rachel Megquier, Sr.; Haily Bushore, Jr.; Jess Bullit, Jr.
Outlook: Although senior talent is there, eight of last year's 12 runners are gone, so an air of uncertainty clouds the early season. An exchange student from Italy will add an interesting wrinkle. “If we can find that fifth runner, we have enough there that we can make things difficult for other teams,” coach Scott Coil said.
Runners to watch: Emily McNicholas, Sr; Rebecca Karnezis, Sr.; Brittany Barajas, Jr.; Mallory Grim, Fr.; Melanie Mooney, Fr.
Outlook: A much-improved team in 2012, the Mustangs nipped Hobart for the NCC race title as pack running returned to prominence. “Everything the girls did, they did because they fought," coach Michelle Duffy said. "They worked diligently in practice and that was able to translate into what they did in those meets. This year we have the same mentality.”
Porter County Conference
Runners to watch: Sarah Steinhilber, Sr.; Mariah Rodriguez, Sr.; Megan Jordan, So.
Outlook: An interchangeable top three return. Freshman Shawna Greenway should be a solid fourth, giving coach Trish Kloth's Wolves hopes of competing in the PCC.
Runners to watch: Payton Schatz, Sr.; Lexi Schatz, So.; Sarah Benjamin, So.; Liz Fox, Jr.; Abby Getautas, Jr.; Jordan Keehn, Jr.
Outlook: The Hawks return six of the seven runners from a semistate qualifier. Payton Schatz has established herself as the clear No. 1. Injuries are coach Mike DeFries' top concern as depth isn't great after the top seven.
Runners to watch: Kylie Kuebler, Jr.; Casey Cavinder, So.; Harley Satoski, Fr.
Outlook: Kuebler, who missed a regional berth by one place, and Bekah Case were the only two runners back, but four soccer players came out, giving coach Perry Heinold enough for a team.
Runners to watch: McKenzie Bruder, So.; Liz Rusk, Sr.; Katie Vance, So.; Jessica Bruder, Sr.
Outlook: The Tigers graduated their top four. McKenzie Bruder and Rusk are expected to vie for the top spot on a team of five for coach Brian McMahan.
Runners to watch: Megan McDaniel, Jr.; Hailey Haveck, Fr.
Outlook: Five of the Cherokees' six runners graduated, but seven newcomers have increased coach Kellee Hitz's roster. Most lack experience. McDaniel and Haveck, a middle school standout, are the exceptions. "I think there's potential, it's just a matter of getting it out of them," Hitz said.
Runners to watch: Kyleigh Werner, Jr.; Carly Kohout, So.; Elspeth YoungBrust, Fr.
Outlook: Werner qualified for semistate and looks to make the next step. YoungBrust could bump the Satellites up the PCC ranks. Runners four through seven will be key for coach Rachel Werner.
Runners to watch: Liz Masson, Sr.; Kelsy Vinzant, So.; Phillis Meredith, So.
Outlook: Masson returns as the top runner and leader. Coach Angela Kniefel-Mendenhall is expecting a few freshmen to join as school starts to give Washington enough for a team score.
Runners to watch: Molly Corder, Sr,; Stephanie Popp, Jr.
Outlook: The Blackhawks have five of their top six back for new coach Alex Tomscheck. "We're really excited to get into a conference and at least have a chance for a few all-conference runners," Tomscheck said.
Runners to watch: Abigail Pineda, Sr.; Cierra Callico, Jr.; Dominique Findley, Sr.; Erin Lewis, Fr.
Outlook: Several track sprinters are poised to give the Cardinals more depth after the team had a full squad a year ago. “They have great attitudes, and the girls are really ready to build a program here,” coach Corey Bailey said.
Runners to watch: Ashley Wintczak, Fr.; Holly Dykstra, So.
Outlook: This is the charter school's first full year of eligibility, so the postseason will be exciting for a school that showed up at the Gavit Invitational when its highest grade was ninth. “Our team is small but I believe we make up for it in ability,” coach Jennifer Ledford said.
Runners to watch: Riley Hickman, So.; Morgan Garrity, Jr.; LeeAlison Korniak, So.; Kylie Nugent, So.; Valerie Edelman, Jr.
Outlook: Numbers are up, and Hickman is a star in the making. The Bombers will compete for the No. 2 spot in the Hoosier Conference. “These are some of the most hard-working individuals I’ve ever seen, and they really stick together,” coach Sid Dobson said.
— Jim Peters, Paul Trembacki