Scouting Local Girls Cross Country Teams
Duneland Athletic Conference
Runners to watch: Melone Buckmaster, So.; Kim St. Pierre, Sr.; Molly Stauffer, Sr.; Jenna Norgaard, Sr.; Linda Graff, Jr.
Outlook: The Trojans should make a run at a state berth, which they missed out on last season. A veteran group should get a lift from a batch of newcomers including Abby Culbertson and Haley Cushway.
Quote: "Knock wood, it seems like a little deeper crew. They had a pretty good summer. We're moving in the right direction. If we can keep healthy, we should be stronger than last year." -- coach Brian Carden
Runners to watch: Laicee Pierce, Sr.; Augusta Schrader, Sr.; Taylor Passine, Jr.; Madison Koch, Jr.
Outlook: Pierce finished third at state last season (19:33.2), establishing herself as one of the best runners in Indiana. Schrader, Passine and Koch all ran at state for the Bulldogs' sixth-place team last year. Expectations remain extremely high for Crown Point.
Runners to watch: Anna Kacius, Sr.; Shelby Carroll, Jr.; Amanda Onest, So.
Outlook: Lake Central has some new and returning talent under second-year coach Amy Nimetz, but the team will obviously miss star runner Dana Payonk, who graduated. The team is somewhat young, but everyone is competing to claim their rank on the team.
Quote: "About 25 girls have been coming consistently to conditioning all summer. This shows me how dedicated they are and how much they want to prove themselves this season." -- Nimetz
Runners to watch: Elena Lancioni, Fr.; Ashley Gerick, Fr.; Chloe Owen, Fr.
Outlook: The Slicers are 16 strong, but 12 of them started the season having never run a high school race. A very promising freshman class headed by Lancioni offers definite hope.
Quote: "Our goal is to gain experience and confidence throughout the season and compete for a spot in the regional. The girls have put in a lot of time and mileage all summer. It has been a real dedicated group." -- coach John Dearing
Runner to watch: Victoria Collins, So.
Outlook: The future looks good for Merrillville, which only has one runner who isn't a sophomore. The Pirates should be more competitive in the DAC this season.
Quote: "We have many new runners who are working hard, and they look eager to race." -- coach Aaron Crawn
Runners to watch: Kristina Parrish, Jr.; Holly Higdon, Jr.; Kelsie Emerick, Sr.; Lindsay Smith, Jr.
Outlook: Parrish, who missed state by one spot, and a trio of runners are back from a squad that placed 11th at semistate. The Wolves have several newcomers in Christine Brennan, Theresa Saenz, Katie Edlen and Nouha Hakim who could help the team's depth issues.
Quote: "That (semistate) experience should motivate (Parrish) well enough to crack into this year's top 15," -- coach Tim Bumber
Runners to watch: Terra Norman, Jr.; Christina Delturco, Sr.; Abby Trader, Jr.; Sierra King, Jr.; Abby Trader, Jr.
Outlook: The Indians return intact after finishing 17th at state. Portage is one of the most experienced teams around, with 11 juniors on a roster of 20 and six girls who have run in two state meets.
Quote: "The talent is there. The training is there. Are they willing to show up every day, race hard and be committed to each other? With the improvements they've made and what they've said, I'd like to think it will pay dividends as we get into the fall. They've come to the realization that if we're going to do what they can do, this is the season." -- coach Chuck Heimberg
Runners to watch: Katelyn DeVries, Jr.; Lauren Bigger, Jr.; Tiffany Fortney, So.; Tricia Joll, Jr.; Erica Wirsing, Sr.; Angelica Perez, Sr.
Outlook: The Vikings should make a push for the state meet awards stand, with six of their seven runners back from an eighth-place finish. DeVries took fourth at state. Freshmen Marilee Tullis and Liz Schlicting could push for top-seven spots.
Quote: "Of course we want to improve on our (state) place from last year. That's the big goal we're looking at for the season as a whole. I don't really know where our numbers are as to who is what, and I like that." -- coach Karen DeVries
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
Runners to watch: Miriam Guerrero, Sr.; Camyrria Baggett, So.
Outlook: Though the Pioneers aren't fielding a full team, coach Eric Curosh expects improvement. The goal is to have the girls advance to the Crown Point Regional individually.
Quote: "Our girls have displayed a lot of dedication and pride this year and want to show their true mettle." -- Curosh
Runners to watch: Stephanie Maman, Jr.; Jerusha Kornas, Sr.; Gabrielle Alvarado, Sr.; Kristina Palmerin, So.
Outlook: The Gladiators hope to take the GLAC behind the strength of their top four returning runners.
Quote: "The girls are trying the best they can to help the team. The past experience has helped, and they know what to expect." -- coach Rich Jay
Runners to watch: Tityana Miller, Sr.
Outlook: Hammond finished last in the 2009 Gavit Sectional at Dowling Park out of the schools who fielded a team, so improvement should be a priority.
Outlook: Morton didn't field a full team last season, so that will be priority No. 1 for the Governors.
Greater South Shore Conference
Outlook: Calumet didn't field a full team last season and wasn't able to post a team score at the Gavit Sectional.
Outlook: Like many small schools, Lake Station didn't field a full team last season.
Runners to watch: Anna Grabovick, Fr.; Dakota Kaplan, Fr.
Outlook: The Blazers graduated their sole runner from last season but picked up a pair of freshmen.
Quote: "The kids have been committed all summer. They've put in a lot of miles. They have the potential to do some damage when the conference meet rolls around." -- coach Eric Hubertz.
Runners to watch: Jennifer Madrigal, Jr.; Alexis Strubing, So.
Outlook: North Newton has just four runners out, so efforts are being made to land a fifth athlete so the Spartans can compete as a team.
Quote: "We're trying to recruit some kids." -- coach Tim Loughmiller
Runners to watch: Mary Salinas, Sr.; Caridad Ramos, Fr.
Outlook: As is the problem at many small schools, the Ingots don't have a full team. Recruitment efforts are under way.
Quote: "We started school (Thursday), and I told them to ask around when they get there." -- coach Milagro Gonzalez
Runners to watch: Sayra Jimenez, Jr.; Danielle Weens, Jr.; Jennifer Hennessey, Sr.; Lupe Cornejo, Sr.; Sam Bach, So.; Chandler Saints, Jr.
Outlook: The Oilers return a solid core from last season's GSSC champion team. Whiting hopes to improve upon last season's eighth-place finish at the Crown Point Regional.
Quote: "To get to semistate would be a wonderful thing, because we've never accomplished that." -- coach Kevin Moynihan
Runners to watch: Abby Zeitler, Jr.; Kelly O'Shea, Fr.; Erin Bodnar, So.; Carey Ganz, So.; Josie Lancaster, So.
Outlook: The Bearcats return state qualifier Abby Zeitler, who is expected to get plenty of support from O'Shea, a talented freshman, and Ganz, a sophomore newcomer.
Quote: "We're going to have a solid team. It's hard to tell now, but I definitely want to get past sectionals." -- coach Ben Kosal
Northwest Crossroads Conference
Runners to watch: Becca Conley, So.; Brianna Martinez, Sr.; Marina Alvarez, Sr.; Alyson Janiga, Fr.; Lauren Stazinski, Fr.
Outlook: As far as numbers are concerned, Andrean simply can't afford any injuries. Inquires have been made to the girls soccer and volleyball teams for part-time runners. However, Conley and Stazinski -- a volleyball player herself -- will anchor a solid core of runners.
Quote: "Lauren (Stazinski) is going to be a big key to our success." -- coach Rick Torres
Runners to watch: Taylor Austin, So.; Sam Aguilar, Jr.; Kathy Villalpando, Jr.
Outlook: Griffith doesn't have the numbers out this year that the team normally has, but the runners out have been very dedicated to improving their overall times this season. Taylor Austin hopes to repeat her appearance at state.
Quote: "With the loss of six seniors -- five of them in the top seven -- the girls have a rebuilding year." -- coach Shannon Scheidel
Runners to watch: Nicole O'Malley, Jr.; Hannah McCormick, Sr.; Shannon Doolittle, Sr.; Amber Przyborski, Fr.
Outlook: Highland hopes to improve its conference standings this year behind the strength of seven solid runners. O'Malley could be a top runner in the area, and Przyborski should add depth.
Quote: "The girls have been working hard in the summer. As long as they keep pushing themselves, we should see great improvement over last season." -- coach Ellie Belli
Runners to watch: Celena Guerrero, Fr.; Mindy Whitten, Fr.; Caley Dunn, Fr.; Page Wrenn, So.
Outlook: Hobart is expecting a great deal of improvement over last season. The team is young but has a lot of potential.
Quote: "Celena is a hard worker and tough competitor. Mindy and Caley have adjusted quite well despite being new to the sport." -- coach Ty Artherhults
Runners to watch: Kristin Fritts, Sr.; Felicia Systma, Jr.; Allison Rockley, Fr.; Kaylyn Osborn, Fr.; BreAnne Chevrette, Sr.; Natalie Henning, Sr.
Outlook: K.V. finished 4-2 in the NCC last season. With a solid returning core along with promising freshmen, the Kougars are feeling optimistic.
Quote: "We can be good by the end of the season. Our freshmen may be better than we originally thought." -- coach Lane Lewallen
Runners to watch: Mackenzie Nichols, So.; Sarah Edwards, So.; Sarah Wieser, Fr.
Outlook: Lowell lost its top three runners from last season, but competition is fierce for the top seven spots. The Red Devils hope to be in the mix for the NCC title.
Quote: "All 13 (runners) that we had are very dedicated to the program, and we had excellent summer attendance. If this group sticks together and keeps working, our program should be on the rise for the next four to five years." -- coach Scott Coil
Runners to watch: Kyela Specht, Sr.; Colleen Ogren, So.; Allison Boyle, Jr.; Julie Puvogel, Sr.; Emily McNicholas, Fr.
Outlook: Munster lost five runners to graduation last year, but expectations still remain high for a team that has established a tradition of success. Coach Michelle Duffy realizes everyone else's expectations for her team are likely to be low, but she remains optimistic that the Mustangs can continue as a solid squad.
Quote: "They want to be pushed to the limit, so they can prove me wrong and prove everyone else wrong." -- Duffy
Porter County Conference
Runners to watch: Jordan Chester, Sr.; Gabby Salas, Jr.; Sarah Steinhilber, Fr.; Kathy Moench, Jr.; Bethany Neyhart, Jr..
Outlook: Chester bids for her third straight all-state finish. A trio of promising freshmen gives the Wolves a roster of seven and some reason for optimism beyond Chester.
Quote: "It's a great mix for our team not only to compete with other teams but amongst ourselves. They can help each other get better. I'm very excited for the season." -- coach Patricia Kloth
Runners to watch: Taylor Hillegonds, Sr.; Sammy Hunt, Fr.
Outlook: Coach Steve Foulds expects improvement out of his kids, and wants to help his lower runners drop below an 8-minute mile pace. Hillegonds finished 15th at last season's Crown Point Sectional and will step up as the team's No. 1 runner this year.
Quote: "We'd like to get out of the sectional." -- coach Steve Foulds
Runners to watch: Jordan Hanaway, Sr.; Laura McNeill, Sr.; Christy Reick, Jr.; Emily DeFries, So.
Outlook: The Hawks return six of the seven runners from the regional that finished seventh. An influx of new talent could be enough to bump Hebron to the semistate level.
Runners to watch: Tara Hamstra, Jr.; Sabrina Theis, Sr.; Paige Tribble, Sr.; Nicole DeFries, Jr.; Hannah Birky, Sr.
Outlook: Four-year standout Courtney Bennett is gone, but the Fillies have an experienced group with two all-conference runners in Hamstra and Theis. Birky, a hurdler in track, is out for the first time, giving Kouts just enough for a team score.
Quote: "I teach freshman math. Hopefully, I can talk some (kids) out. We're hoping to be in the top half of the conference." -- coach Pam Thurner
Runners to watch: Taylor Guse, So.; Christine Malecki, Sr.; Jill Warner, So.; Shelby Rushnok, Jr.; Gabbie Sievers, So.
Outlook: The Tigers walk the tight rope with the minimum five runners for a team score but are an experienced group. Malecki was all-conference last year.
Quote: "Overall, we shouldn't be too bad. There are a few teams in there that'll be tough for us, but we should be able to compete with the rest, as long as we avoid injuries." -- coach David Amor
Runners to watch: Ellen Turman, Jr.; Lindsey Bornmann, Jr.; Elly Johansen, So.; Kaylee Sheets, Fr.
Outlook: The Cherokees start with the same number they finished last year -- four -- though only Turman and Bornmann are returnees. Sheets is trying to juggle cross country with volleyball and soccer.
Quote: "There are a couple the girls are working on. It makes them work harder when there's a team involved. Even with four, they're working extra hard, so hopefully that'll mean good things." -- coach Kellee King
Runners to watch: Erin Shei, Sr.; Hannah Kohout, Fr.; Demie Johnson, So.; Allie Matthys, So.
Outlook: Thanks to the arrival of several newcomers, the Satellites' ranks have incresed to seven after finishing last season with just two. Kohout could develop into a strong second to Shei.
Quote: "I'm happy to have a team. I'm extremely excited for the girls." -- coach Rachel Werner
Runners to watch: Brittany Talley, Jr.; Molly Evans, So.
Outlook: The Senators return four runners from last season on a roster of six.
Quote: "The girls are all excited to try to beat their personal bests, and the team's always trying to work together to win more meets." -- coach Angela Kniefel-Mendenhall
Outlook: The Cardinals were unable to post a team score at the Gavit Sectional last season, because only four of their nine runners finished the race. A young group is back this season.
Runners to watch: Casey Boose, Sr.; Haley Pow, So.; Rachel Dobson, So.; Mariah Walter, So.; Allie Deno, Jr.
Outlook: The Bombers will field a young team behind Casey Boose and should continue to improve as the season goes on with more experience.
Quote: "Casey will be a good leader, and Allie has ran a couple road races. The girls should come along." -- coach Sid Dobson
Runners to watch: Ashley Haack, Sr.; Lauren Johnston, So.; Ashley Terry, So.; Molly Scholz, So.
Outlook: The Blackhawks are a runner shy of a team score at this point.
Quote: "We had to cancel a lot of practices because of the heat, which kind of set us back right now." -- coach Todd DeVries