Athletes to watch: Garret Toohey, Jr.; Mitch Darabaris, Jr.; Nathan Swanson, So.; Pat Barton, Jr.
Outlook: The 2012 Class 1A state champion Grant Nykaza is gone to Florida State, but coach Adam Depew's well of talent has not run dry. Returning runners Toohey, Darabaris and Swanson all contributed to the Bobcats' regional championship last season, an accomplishment that could be repeated this year. Depew also has high hopes for freshman Josh Nehmer. "I'm really looking forward to this coming cross country season," Depew said. "We graduated a lot of great seniors last year on both the guys and girls sides, but there is a great pack that is returning."
Athletes to watch: Daniel Perez, Jr.; Isaiah Quinn, Sr.
Outlook: The Trojans' dedication last year earned them both a conference team title and a sectional berth. Strong conditioning during the summer should only strengthen their chances to repeat that success. Bloom's new cross country coach Andrew Schmitt is particularly optimistic about what Perez and first-year runner Quinn are capable of achieving as the season progresses.
Athletes to watch: Bryce Stluka, Sr.; Keith Bachert, Sr.; Ryan Desjardins, Sr.; Asante Washington, Jr.; Brandon Elliott, Sr.
Outlook: With two of the Warriors’ all-conference runners from last season gone, coach Brian O’Donnell will look for major contributions from his team’s senior members. The 2012 conference champion Stluka is also coming off a summer full of workouts, which could help Crete build off last year’s trip to sectionals. "I am excited to see how Bryce performs this season," O'Donnell said. "He has put in the work and should see results."
Athletes to watch: Matt Anyiwo, Sr.; Kevin Anderson, Sr.; Christian Hoover, Sr.; Joe Eagle, So.
Outlook: Anyiwo was a regional champion and the Vikings' lone representative at state last season. Coach Mary Kate Pack hopes, though, that her athletes' hard summer training will allow H-F to both improve in its conference and field more competitors in Peoria. Anderson, Hoover and Eagle also ran track during the spring, which should pay dividends going forward. "Our runners have high personal and team goals going into this season," Pack said. "They are coming in stronger than ever, and I believe they are determined to experience success at the state level."
Athletes to watch: Tony Wondaal, Sr.; Nick Fiene, Jr.; Colin Deyoung, So.; Nick Wondaal, So.; Kevin Vroegh, Sr.; Austin Gibson, Sr.; Tom McGuire, Jr.
Outlook: Illiana's stretch of consecutive state appearances continued last year with a sixth-place finish in Class 2A. Each contributor from that squad is back and improved, making another team trip to Peoria almost inevitable in 2013. "We're shooting for the top this year," Piaskowy said. "We have runners who are highly motivated, and there's no telling where they can go."
Athletes to watch: Camren Howard, Sr.; Nathan Holley, Jr.
Outlook: The Spartans roster is comprised largely of younger runners who will be expected to step up this season. The 2012 state qualifier Howard and Holley also spent time this past spring on the track, so they should give the Spartans a good 1-2 punch at most meets. Coach Tim Sovereign said lack of depth is a problem. "It's difficult to develop the future of your program when the numbers just aren't there," Sovereign said. "We'll keep things positive and work hard with the young people we have."
Athletes to watch: Dan O'Keefe, Sr.; Brendan Jacobs, So.; Nick Gallapo, Sr.; Andrew Jacobs, Sr.; Mitch Beasley, Jr.; Kenny Koval, So.
Outlook: Mount Carmel netted a second-place finish at its regional in 2012, but regional champion O'Keefe was the only Caravan runner to advance all the way to Peoria. Fortunately, all six members of that sectional-qualifying team are returning this year for another shot at postseason glory. "I'm really excited for the team's prospects this year," Burke said. "I'd like to see O'Keefe go back to the state meet with some company. As always, it'll be a fun year with the chance to work with great kids."
Athletes to watch: Raekwon Brown, Jr.; Ronaldo Wallace, Jr.; Derrick Quintero, Jr.; Jamal Spruiell, Sr.
Outlook: The bulk of the team load this season will be placed on its junior runners. Brown, Wallace and Quintero, all competed at sectionals in 2012 and desire to make a return appearance this year. Falcons coach Derek Augustynowicz also hopes the successes many of his athletes had during the track season can carry over to cross country. "We’ve got our work cut out for us in a tough conference and (with) a young group of kids," Augustynowicz. "but come regional time, I’m confident we will be very competitive."
Athletes to watch: Santiago Gonzales, Jr.; Amoz Wright, Jr.; Shayquan Taylor, Jr.; Adam Thompson, Sr.
Outlook: The Wildcats got beyond the regional meet last year, but of those individuals who competed at sectionals, only Wright is returning. Coach Vince McAuliffe has confidence, though, that his athletes' summer conditioning will allow Thornton to stay consistent this season.
Athletes to watch: Willis Atekha, Jr.; Armani Curry, Jr.
Outlook: The Meteors suffered a blow with the graduation of Chris Szabelewski, but Atekha and Curry should be able to fill this void nicely. Both athletes are coming off a fulfilling track season, which produced the school's first-ever conference championship in that sport. First-year co-coaches Erik Perez and Kalente Jackson hope that momentum can carry over to the course. "We had really low numbers last year, so our goal as coaches was to get more people out for the team so we can build a successful program here," Jackson said.
Athletes to watch: Tremayne Broy, Sr.; Anthony Kyte, Sr.; Rivera Edmond, Sr.; Thomas Kotel, So.; DJ Jackson, Sr.
Outlook: Three of South’s five sectional qualifiers from 2012 are back this year, including Kyte and Kotel, the latter of whom was also an all-conference finisher on the frosh-soph level. Coach Fred Seibel hopes newcomers Broy and Edmond can make an additional impact early on. "The team has many seniors and we are hoping to improve on the team from last season," Seibel said. "The team wants to advance to (sectionals) and do well at the conference meet."
Athletes to watch: Khalil Lightbourne, Sr.; Matthew King, Sr.; Deonta Pittman, Sr.
Outlook: While Thornwood's conference and regional championships last season may have been perceived as a fluke by some, coach Brian Evans is determined to prove otherwise. However, with the graduation of three top runners from 2012, Lightbourne, King and Pittman will be expected to play greater roles for the Thunderbirds as they seek to be competitive again. "With the loss of three key seniors, it will be imperative for newcomers to step up," Evans said. "The boys must make a commitment to their team and their sport if Thornwood is to be successful."
-- Compiled by Kenny Karrson